Hacking Open Access: Sustainable publication for Humanities

Open Access in Humanities and Social Sciences, from Eelco Ferwerda provides a remarkable compilation of this discussion.


Although the open access movement has been going strong for over 10 years in the areas of natural sciences and medical sciences, the humanities and social sciences have lagged behind. However, OA is not only an exclusive STEM approach anymore, the humanities are also considering how they can transition in this direction.

How to move toward sustainability?

The current system is not sustainable. Even the gold OA shouldn’t be considered as the unique or best solution, which is not entirely suitable for humanities and social sciences as well as for those who conduct self-founded research. So, the key question is: How to implement, on a large scale, a model that does not rest upon direct, author-facing payments, but instead, supports the publishing infrastructure through collective efforts?

As presented previously in the (30 exploratory models for OA sustainability) there are hybrid modes: Ubiquity Press, Co-Action Publishing, Open Editions, and the new project Open Library of Humanities, are some examples of Open Access publishing developed by scholars from those communities. Work by SCIELO, AJOL, AlluviumeLife among others are also noteworthy.

What makes the Open Library of Humanities a truly exciting experiment?

The publishing models to be adopted and implemented once the fund-raising phase is complete, are fully driven (and thus vetted and legitimated) by the academic community itself. OLH aims to develop a nonprofit, low-cost, peer-reviewed, ethically-driven, sustainable, and inclusive scholarly publishing venture. The goal is to be non-profit, but sustainable.

Here key ideas about OLH:

  • It is based on a subsidy model that is piloting costings, labour needs, infrastructure requirements and potential revenue streams.
  • It is not owned by a publisher; it’s run by scholars (and recruits “big names” on to its editorial board).
  • It provides a huge online repository of peer-reviewed articles that shows off the best in research from around the world in a way that’s fully and publicly accessible.
  • It offers article-level metrics to track each work’s impact in the scholarly field.
  • It is non-profit and open in both monetary and permission terms. It gives free access under a creative commons licence and sets out to provide a resource for scholars and librarians to digitally preserve and archive work permanently and for everyone.
  • It launched a campaign asking scholars to Pledge to Publish a paper with OLH within its first year. Scholars who so pledge and don’t have institutional support will have any fees, yet to be determined, waived.

postscript: If Humanities and Social Science journals insist on lengthy embargos they will lose the support of many in the academic community.

Media Coverage | Open Library of Humanities. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.openlibhums.org/media/media-coverage/

Press Release | Open Library of Humanities. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.openlibhums.org/media/press-release/