OASPA’s membership is our global community of open access scholarly publishers and related organisations. In the second of a series of interviews highlighting the diversity, activities, and different approaches of our members to open access publishing, OASPA’s Events and Communications Coordinator, Leyla Williams, talked to Megan Taylor, University Press and Marketing Manager for OASPA member the University of Huddersfield Press.
Thanks for talking with me today, Megan. What made the University of Huddersfield Press originally apply to be a member of OASPA?
We came across OASPA through word of mouth in the publishing industry. After looking at OASPA’s mission on your website, it became clear that it aligned very closely with our own principles of governing the Press, and we applied for membership. University presses often work in silos, so it’s very important for us to be part of the wider scholarly communication community.
The Press was set up in 2007, but re-established yourselves in 2010. Can you tell us about the principles governing the Press after you were re-established?
We were originally set up as an offshoot of the university library. Researchers at the university wanted to publish their work open access, but didn’t have an appropriate outlet to work with.
In 2010, we re-established ourselves and professionalised the Press. By 2016, we’d created a Press Manager role – mine – and had built up the resources to invest in communications and discoverability efforts.
We’ve recently been working with the Open Library of Humanities to migrate all our Press’s journals to the Janeway platform – our new publishing platform launched in November.
Why is it important for the Press to be open access, and how do you ensure your business model is sustainable?
Open access has always been important to us because researchers want their work to be read, shared and used, and open access is the best way to maximise this.
From the beginning we ensured all our journals were open access, but our books were originally print only. We soon realised, though, that it made sense for us to move to an entirely open access model, particularly when considering the increasing importance of open access in REF assessments. Making our platform open access gave researchers a really important space to publish their open access monographs and articles, without the prohibitively high costs of many gold open access options from commercial publishers.
As for sustainability, we operate a two-prong business model: we support researchers to access available funding by providing information and finance breakdowns for research bids, and if researchers can’t access funding, we have a centrally-funded production budget to support several books a year.
What is your experience working on open access initiatives in a university environment?
My background before working at the Press was in commercial publishing, and then marketing and communication within Research and Enterprise at the University of Huddersfield. It’s just me working at the Press, currently, and I do that three days a week. In January 2019 we are appointing a student assistant to get involved with journal submissions and marketing activities.
We dedicate a lot of time to individual projects here, which is really important. We offer writing sessions and publishing support sessions for postgraduates, and career support. So the work is intensive; big publishers don’t do it because it’s not scalable within their model, but it works amazingly well for us and our scholarly community.
When I started in this position a few years ago, university staff were still finding out about open access publishing, but with the open access team within the library, and the increased activities of the Press, there’s now lots of knowledge about it in all parts of the university, which is great.
Does the Press publish research in particular disciplines? What are some recent highlights of your work?
We publish 10 journals and on average two books a year. Our monographs have recently focused on contemporary music, fiction and prose, and history. On the journals side, we have content coming from the humanities and and social sciences as well as science and medicine, from a range of UK and international authors.
You’ve been publishing books and music as well as journals. How have you found publishing multiple kinds of content?
Publishing music is much more complicated in terms of the publication processes and procedures involved. We’re actually launching a new record label through the Press, and hope to have the first recording out by Summer 2019.
We’ve gone down a very bespoke publishing journey with the printed versions of our open access books; it’s more about the quality of output for us than anything else, and we want to mirror that approach in our music publishing too.
You’ve described your authors and editors’ commitment to practice a real-world application to their publications. Could you expand on this and how you facilitate this approach?
Depending on the subject area, researchers often feel there aren’t enough open access spaces to publish high quality research in particular areas. We’ve tried to tackle that problem; for example, our pharmacology-focused journal at the Press was created because an editor had real-world experience of working and researching in pharmacology, and struggling to get access to all the publications needed. The reason for the editor starting up the journal was really about improving access to high quality research in their field, without getting charged high article processing charges.
What are the challenges you encounter as a small university press?
Resources and time. Running a press single handedly is hard work, but we look forward to welcoming our student assistant in 2019 to improve this situation. We’re lucky to have central funding, but budgets are tight which means we have to be clear on our priorities.
It can also be hard to get people to understand what open access is all about. In certain subject areas, particularly in the sciences or sometimes engineering – much more than the social sciences and humanities – we struggle to engage researchers on open access issues.
Why is it important for you to be a member of OASPA? What have you gained from your membership so far?
Put simply, OASPA facilitates conversations in the scholarly communication world that would otherwise not happen, and we are keen to be an active part of that community.
What’s in the pipeline for the Press?
Now our new publication platform has launched, we are focusing on supporting our Editors and authors through the new submission processes, and making sure the new platform is highly discoverable. We are also ramping up our monograph programme and looking at monograph discoverability in 2019, as we expect an increase in demand from our researchers before the next REF.