OA Week 2020 Interview: the Dutch Research Council (NWO) funding for Open Access Books

Tom Mosterd

Wed 21 Oct 2020

Read this article at hypothèses.org

The OAPEN Library is a partner of the Dutch Research Council (NWO) and provides a quality hosting environment for all peer-reviewed academic books, book chapters and collected volumes which are the result of or report on research funded partly or in whole by NWO and are primarily aimed at an academic reading audience.

The interview below discusses the new funding scheme for Open Access books introduced by the NWO in June 2020. The first two books financed through this new funding scheme can be found on the OAPEN Library:

Worlds of Labour Turned Upside Down : Revolutions and Labour Relations in Global Historical Perspective; Brill; https://library.oapen.org/handle/20.500.12657/42483

The Journeys of a Taymiyyan Sufi : Sufism through the Eyes of ʿImād al-Dīn Aḥmad al-Wāsiṭī (d. 711/1311); Brill; https://library.oapen.org/handle/20.500.12657/42527

An overview of all 89 NWO-funded Open Access books can be found here.

This interview is a cross-post from the interview posted on the Open Access Books Network on October 21st 2020 which can be found here.


Start of interview

Amidst a year filled with turmoil and change, the International Open Access Week makes it annual return (19-26 October). Its theme is ‘Open with Purpose: Taking Action to Build Structural Equity & Inclusion’. As part of Open Access week the Open Access Books Network (OABN) would like to zoom in on a few developments in the open access books world through a series of interviews. As part of this second interview Agata Morka (OABN) spoke with Hans de Jonge (Dutch Research Council, NWO) to learn more about their recently announced funding scheme for open access books.

Agata Morka (OABN), Hans de Jonge (Dutch Research Council, NWO), October 2020

As part of the OA week we want to focus on developments in OA books; could you give us a short overview of your initiative in 2-3 sentences as an introduction?

At the Dutch Research Council NWO we have recently launched a dedicated funding scheme for Open Access Books. It is part of our strategy to step up our efforts for Open Access and Open Science in general.

How would you describe your initiative to someone who knew nothing about it?

At NWO we are deeply committed to making sure the results of our funding are made openly available. Open Access to journal articles have over the years become an established practice. For NWO in 2019 around 68% of all scholarly papers are openly available. The transition to Open Access for academic books has been much slower, which carries the risk of leaving disciplines behind for which the book is (and hopefully will remain) an essential means of scholarly communication. In the Netherlands around 40% of scholarly output in social sciences and humanities has a “bookish” format. NWO wants to contribute to making sure that at least the part of those books that are the result of NWO research funding will become available in Open Access. That’s why we have launched a new funding scheme for Open Access books.

What is the main goal/ambition of the project and why?

It is becoming increasingly clear that Open Access has the same benefits for scholarly books and monographs as for scientific papers. Open Access books are more findable, are downloaded more, are cited more and have a much wider readership than non-OA books. Unlike in countries such as the UK, where we have seen a series of very inspiring reports, there has not been much debate about Open Access books in the Netherlands. Only recently it was stated in the National Plan on Open Science (NPOS) that the aim is to extend Open Access to academic books and other formats. Together with colleagues Eelco Ferwerda, Jeroen Sondervan and Astrid van Wesenbeek we prepared a note for the NPOS. In our view the reason why Open Access books are lagging behind is: (1) a lack of policies (it is not clear whether books are in or out of scope of existing OA policies in the Netherlands), (2) a lack of funding and (3) persistent misconceptions about Open Access and a clear need to communicate about the benefits of Open Access for books. With the new Open Access book fund, NWO wants to contribute to help solve the funding problem. But we also updated our OA policies with regard to books as part of our new Plan S compliant OA policy. It is now crystal clear that we expect books that are the result of project funding by NWO awarded from January 1 2021 onwards to be made Open Access, either by publishing in Open Access or by taking the repository route (also known as ‘Green’ OA). We have partnered with the OAPEN-library so that it will become our dedicated Open Access book repository for this purpose.

What is the biggest problem you are trying to solve and how?

NWO has always allowed its grantees to use (part of) their grant money to pay for open access fees. This also includes possible book processing fees charged by publishers. The problem, however, is that very often books are long in the making and often will only get published a significant period of time after the NWO research project has ended. This effectively makes it impossible to use our grant money. The new Open Access book fund wants to solve that problem by providing post-project funding for books that are the result of NWO funding.

What one thing would best help you achieve your goal?

In developing this new funding instrument I have been very fortunate to have received the help and advice of many in the Open Access book community. Experts from the Netherlands like Eelco Ferwerda and Jeroen Sondervan, but also from sister councils in Austria (FWF) and Switzerland (SNSF) where similar funding instruments have been developed in recent years. And also the contacts with some of the commercial book publishers in preparing this funding instrument have been very inspiring.

As an organization how do you respond to this year’s OA week theme, ‘Open with Purpose: Taking Action to Build Structural Equity and Inclusion’?

Last year I attended the OASPA conference in Copenhagen where these issues were brought forward very prominently by Professor Sarita Albagli. Her presentation has made a big impression on me. Also, as members of cOAlition S NWO is of course very well aware of the critique around the APC-based business models that have come up in the West. And although I think cOAlition S has genuinely tried to be as agnostic as possible as regards business models, I do understand the critique from parts of the world where alternative, very well-functioning and most probably also more equitable models have been developed. I am glad that, together with Science Europe, cOAlition S has now taken the step to commission a study on these alternative Diamond business models. I hope this will lead to a better understanding and ultimately to more equitable and inclusive OA business models.

What question do you wish we had asked but didn’t, and why

Where does your passion for Open Access come from?

One of the things that made the biggest impact on me when I graduated and started my working life outside of the university some 20 years ago was the inability to access scholarly literature. From one day to the other suddenly my library pass was blocked and I couldn’t access the vast digital (and physical) collections to which I had become accustomed. Frustration about this grew over time as I worked as policy advisor at several organisations that just couldn’t afford access. It’s simply absurd working as a policy advisor in higher education but not being able to access the most recent papers on the topic you are working on. I found my way around it obviously, as we all do. But I am very thankful from my current position to be able to contribute towards opening up all the research that is being done in the Netherlands!

End of interview