Support for early-career researchers

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University presses are different. Their difference can be traced back to their beginnings as mission-orientated publishers and an extension of their parent institutions, the university. The Association of University Presses’ definition of a university press is a good starting point to understanding its heritage:

‘While commercial publishers focus on making money by publishing for popular audiences, the university press’ mission is to publish work of scholarly, intellectual or creative merit, often for a small audience of specialists or a regional community of interest1.’

University presses aren’t free from economic pressures, but in order to remain relevant and true to their identity, the university press seeks to balance budgetary requirements alongside other priorities, such as representing an increasingly diversified author pool, serving the public good by generating and disseminating knowledge2, and, most importantly, remaining connected to the communities it serves. One of these communities include early-career researchers (ECRs). 

ECRs face significant barriers. They must compete with established scholars while they build a successful track record of publication, their employment contracts may be short-term, or otherwise less secure than those of their more senior scholars, and they are more likely to have heavy teaching commitments. At the same time, they are unlikely to have been eligible for research leave and are engaged in learning a new career. As Emma Brennan, editorial director at Manchester University Press explains, ‘ECRs face so many challenges, and publishing is critical to their career prospects and disseminating their research globally. Helping to carve out a space where others can acknowledge the contribution of ECRs is a service that university presses can, and should, provide, and one that aligns with wider sustainability goals, such as equality and inclusivity.’

To demonstrate support for ECRs, six well established university presses from the UK are proposing a collaborative project to secure funding for a number of first books by UK-based ECRs. This project is named OpenUP. Central to the success of OpenUP are institutional libraries, who can subscribe to OpenUP on a banded basis and their participation will fund the cost of Diamond open access for a list of eligible books.    

This three-year pilot project aims to raise £96,000 per year to fund open-access publication for 12 books in each period. The first batch of books will publish in 2023, and the books will have undergone extensive peer review at various submission stages. If the threshold is not met within the pledging period, either a smaller number of books will be published open access in the following year, or the amount will be combined with that for future years.

OpenUP has been approved as a participant in Jisc’s new Open Access Community Framework (OACF), which is supporting mission-driven diamond open access initiatives. Anna Vernon, head of content licensing at Jisc, explained that OpenUP is ‘an innovative and inclusive model for open access books that aligns with our goal of supporting bibliodiversity in open access monographs and levels the playing field for ECRs.’

Institutions wishing to support OpenUP can find more information and pledge funding via Jisc’s Licence subscriptions manager

Tom Dark, head of editorial at Edinburgh University Press, summed up the OpenUp initiative, ‘Edinburgh University Press shares many values with the other the participating university presses in terms of being quality-led and mission-oriented, and this collaboration demonstrates our shared goal of supporting early career researchers both as our valued authors of today and tomorrow. Recognising the many challenges being faced by ECRs, I’m sure this is just one area where we are able to work together to benefit the wider scholarly community.’