Guest post: Taylor & Francis – A Decade of Publishing OA Books

We are excited to share with the members of DOAB that we recently marked 10 years of open access book publishing. Negotiating Bioethics became the first fully open access Taylor & Francis book back in 2013. Ten years later, with a list of more than 1,500 OA titles and thousands of individual open chapters, we continue to strive to be one of the world’s leading open access book publishers.  

To celebrate a decade of open access books, a new collection was created by our commissioning editors who nominated 12 standout OA books of the last decade. This diverse range of titles puts a spotlight on the role of open access in sharing new knowledge with a broad readership on important global issues, including human rights, environmental justice, sustainable development and public health.

A commitment towards our vision to enhance dissemination of our OA content and cultivate a successful OA books program was boosted as early as 2017 by joining and hosting OA content on OAPEN. We are proud that we are the largest participating publisher in the OAPEN platform, as discoverability and trustworthy metadata is an important piece of the puzzle and challenge in OA book publishing.

We would like to thank our colleagues at DOAB for the opportunity to answer some of their questions below which we hope would be of interest to all of you.

What drove T&F’s decision to sponsor DOAB and why was it an important one to make?

As a leading OA book publisher, we believe that we have a role to play in supporting community driven services, as well as ensuring the widest dissemination of our content. Therefore, we are delighted to contribute to the development and sustainability of DOAB’s platform and services via our continuing Gold sponsorship.

We really enjoy collaborating with the broader DOAB team on a range of initiatives, including via the ongoing OA Book Usage Data Trust, as well as providing input to OAPEN’s Book Analytics Service, PALOMERA, and joining the innovative new PRISM initiative.

Tell us a bit about your experience with PRISM. How was your experience describing your peer review processes and what have you learnt from this?

Our participation in DOAB’s new Peer Review Information Service for Monographs (PRISM) initiative was indeed a positive experience.

It is our policy to peer review all proposed book projects before offering a contract, including open access proposals. Therefore, our open access content follows the same editorial and production processes as the rest of our book publishing including a robust peer review workflow which encompasses a large cohort of scholars, internal subject matter experts, and practicing educators who serve as peer reviewers.

During the PRISM project it was encouraging to confirm that, despite the broad range of our publishing program across over 60 subjects within HSS and STEM, our peer review processes remain thorough and consistent.

How has inclusion in PRISM been received by your community? 

Research integrity is an issue of ever-increasing importance within the broader open research movement, including addressing author concerns around the quality of OA book publishing. Therefore, it is our hope that joining initiatives such as PRISM, in which information about the peer review process is easily available to DOAB users, will help to address these wider concerns.

By providing details about when the review took place (such as at proposal stage) and the type of peer reviewer (for example, by an external reviewer), we are able to enhance the transparency and trust of OA books and to showcase the high quality of this scholarship.

How do T&F see OA book publishing developing and what do you predict your role in this might be?

We are keen to listen and are proactive in initiatives and discussions with funders, libraries, societies, and other stakeholders, with the ambition to make the option to publish open access as straightforward as possible for all involved. With this in mind, we aim to continue to innovate and experiment with new OA models to enable the long-term, sustainable transition to open access.

For example, we have recently introduced a new pilot initiative, Pledge to Open as the first step towards building a sustainable and affordable collective funding model. We continue participating in the SCOAP3 books programme opening up titles in high energy physics, at no cost to the authors. We have also now published over 100 T&F books OA via Knowledge Unlatched, including collections within African Studies, providing an alternative OA publishing solution for Africa-based scholars.

As we are all witnessing, the OA book landscape is constantly evolving, presenting a range of challenges, in particular within an international context where open access mandates and perceptions differ, especially when some countries and regions have well-established open access frameworks, while others are still getting to grips with navigating the complexities of the OA book ecosystem in their own setting.

Therefore, every stakeholder has an integral role to play to speed up the transition to open access for books and promote open research in book publishing. It is important for all of us, publishers, funders, institutions, librarians, researchers, services providers, and other key players in scholarly communication and open research to engage and work together towards aligned practices that will maximise the impact, diversity, and equity of the OA books landscape.

Maria Angelaki (Partnership Development Manager, Open Access Books)

James Watson (Open Access Books Lead)

‘Ubuntu’ in Africa and Beyond: Building a Global Community for Open Access Books

This blog post is written by Jordy Findanis, Project Manager, on DOAB’s recent participation in the workshop “Towards Sustainable Open Access Book Publishing in the African Context” at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, 7–9 February 2024.

A more equitable, inclusive and sustainable open access (OA) publishing landscape can only be achieved by engaging with communities outside the usual sphere of influence within the wider publishing ecosystem. Such an understanding informs DOAB’s mission to serve as a global discoverability service as it continues to build its collection of high-quality, academic, peer-reviewed OA books. Despite the list’s growing diversity, now including more than eighty languages and 700 publishers, there is still a strong underrepresentation of OA research from the global South, not least Africa. As part of DOAB increasingly accelerating its outreach activities in the African context, and growing our understanding of OA in the many different settings that constitute that vast continent, my colleagues Niels Stern (Managing Director) and Mary Felix-Mania (General Manager) and I welcomed the opportunity to attend the in-person workshop “Towards Sustainable Open Access Book Publishing in the African Context” held on 7–9 February at the University of Cape Town. 

Beautifully perched on the lower slopes of iconic Table Mountain, the University of Cape Town (UCT) and UCT Libraries served as an ideal venue for the three-day workshop. The remit of the workshop was to address barriers and challenges impeding open scholarly communication from flourishing in the African context and to probe opportunities and developments that can support the open agenda and grow African scholarship. In collaboration with our good colleagues from the Open Book Futures project, the UCT, Lancaster University and the Association of African Universities, we teamed up with delegates from countries all over Africa − including South Africa, Malawi, Kenya, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Sudan, Ghana, Lesotho, Nigeria, Zambia and Namibia − to learn from each other, exchange ideas and skills, and share best practices.

Reclaiming Equity in Practice

A key issue informing the workshop from the outset was inequity within scholarly publishing. With the advent of the internet and the early drafting of OA declarations came the hope of the enfranchisement of marginalised research communities. But rather than enabling the production and dissemination of research, the very inequities that the OA movement sought to redress have become further entrenched. As the publishing landscape continues to be disproportionately “northernised,” systemic inequalities will persist and prevent a healthy and not least necessary bidirectional flow of research between the north and south. A significant point reiterated throughout the workshop was to work towards adopting practices and policies that address local concerns, that is, leveraging support for local knowledge production and developing bespoke infrastructures and resources to serve that very aim. This begs the question: how can this be done in practice?

Something that was stressed throughout the workshop was the importance of developing local infrastructures that can support African research. The University of Cape Town, for example, has made significant inroads in reclaiming ownership of its knowledge production by flipping their publishing house to a fully-fledged OA press and further developing the African Platform for Open Scholarship. Sitting within the UCT Libraries, this platform seeks to sustain diamond OA publishing, and its overarching aim is to make it possible for “the African research community to take ownership of creating and sharing its own scholarly content, which contributes to the growth and development of local research for African society,” and thus fostering a “community-based publishing alternative model that disrupts the commercial publishing system. This shift returns the control of publishing back to the researcher community.”[1] In 2023 DOAB was delighted to welcome the African Platform for Open Scholarship as one of our new Trusted Platform Network partners. Such collaborations are important as they promote the equitable flow and exchange of research, but also, crucially, as we depend on these partner platforms’ expertise and understanding of their own local research areas and cultures. We trust that, in time, this and the enhancement of similar initiatives across Africa will improve research dissemination, ensure more bibliodiversity and pave the way for bridging the global North−South knowledge divide.

There are many components that need to be in place to ensure a healthy and sustainable OA ecosystem. In dedicated workshop sessions, a wide range of important issues impinging on OA were collectively discussed, including repositories, metadata and distribution, funding, network building and advocacy, dispelling of OA myths, facilitating OA toolkits and resources, OA publishing and the production processes, and copyright and licensing. What emerged from these lively sessions was a myriad of different perspectives and experiences. Within the library space, for example, we heard of cases in which one institution had some resources and infrastructure but no policy in place, whereas the reverse would be the case for another institution. Several delegates mentioned that it was difficult to align strategies even within the same institution − as one delegate eloquently put it, using the metaphor of a band: the drums are playing in the east, the guitar in the west, the bass in the south and the singer in the north. At the end of the day, it is up to a few committed staff to align, facilitate and drive OA in their institutions with whatever resources they have at hand.  

Takeaways and Challenges

The Secretary General of the African Association of Universities, Professor Olusola Oyewole − representing over 440 African universities – spoke to some of the most immediate and pressing challenges raised by delegates as critical to overcome in a continental OA push: 1) advocacy and OA awareness; 2) capacity building for OA; 3) fostering networks, partnerships and collaboration; 4) and nurturing leadership and governance of Africa higher education institutions to respond to the needs of research communities. He proposed that AAU could serve as a vessel to leverage support in following through on key action points with concrete measures. Some of these included working closely with UCT and appointing officers at the AAU to facilitate OA-related initiatives. The assistance of a pan-African organisation such as the AAU is crucial to the promotion of African knowledge production and the infrastructures that must sustain it, but so too is advocacy and the championing of OA on a local level. Delegates acknowledged that much work needed to be done and that institutional, cross-institutional and cross-national stakeholder collaboration is important in the African context over the next years.

Though familiar challenges were discussed across the event, the recurring ones were lack of funding, infrastructure (relating to both technical challenges and repositories or service providers like DOAB), human resources and training and generally the lack of awareness about OA and incentives to solicit support from researchers, university leadership and policymakers.

A key takeaway from the workshop was that working in isolation or in a siloed manner prevents the necessary exchange of skills and resources − whether in the university, library, independent publishing house or in other scholarly communication spaces.

To sustain OA publishing there is an imperative need for collaboration and sharing – or summed up in a word spoken by many delegates, ubuntu, a nebulous word of Zulu origin that is used in many African countries. Although generally understood to mean “humanity,” the word encompasses a wide range of meanings and nuances that can also evoke a sense of the interconnectedness − or shared community − of individuals. In a research context, it is immediately clear why ubuntu is an apt word to designate community-led values, sharing research and resources to the benefit of all. No researcher, publisher, university, or library is an island unto itself − each holds an important stake in the other, and a healthy and sustainable OA environment is one in which the sum of all its parts work together, further empowering each in its turn.

We all shared the sense that the event had been a success – confirmed by post-workshop responses from participants. We learned so much from each other, made new friends, forged networks and left the workshop with a much better understanding of OA in the African context. This included the challenges that lie ahead, but also concrete ways of overcoming them. We aim to continue supporting local initiatives, including an OA landscape mapping exercise, and make best use of the momentum gathered from the workshop. DOAB will continue to make its services available to researchers, publishers, libraries and other stakeholders and to support African OA agendas. Over the next few years, we will seek to increase our outreach activities in Africa and engage with publishers, libraries and other stakeholders to continue our community-driven mission of ensuring bibliodiversity, equity and inclusion within OA book publishing.

A Word of Thanks

On behalf of DOAB, I would like to thank the University of Cape Town and UCT Libraries, and particularly Ujala Satgoor, Reggie Raju, Jill Claassen and Sai Maharaj for graciously hosting us and making our stay so pleasant; thanks also to our Open Book Futures partners, Thoth Open Metadata’s Vincent van Gerven Oei and our colleagues at the Open Book Collective, particularly Judith Fathallah and Joe Deville, for their invaluable work in bringing the workshop together; and last but not least we express our deepest gratitude to the AAU and all the other African delegates who came from near and far, for enriching the event with important perspectives from the spaces they are all working in.


[1] https://blog.aau.org/a-webinar-on-a-continental-platform-for-sharing-african-scholarship/

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