NWO-funded book author interview: Rens Bod

Since the start of our collaboration with NWO – The Dutch Research Council, the OAPEN Library has seen the NWO collection grow, now containing almost 200 titles. OAPEN asked 3 authors/editors of books arising from NWO-funding to share their experiences and views, the third interview is with Rens Bod:

L.W.M. (Rens) Bod is a professor in digital humanities and history of humanities at the University of Amsterdam.  His research focuses on the exploration of patterns and underlying principles in language, music, art, literature, and history. He is the author of the first historical overview of the humanities from Antiquity to the present: A New History of the Humanities. Bod is a Vici-laureate and he is currently PI in the NWO Gravitation project “Language in Interaction”.

Your recent publication is an English translation of your book that was previously published in Dutch. Published with Johns Hopkins University Press: World of Patterns – A Global History of Knowledge was made freely available under a CC-BY licence, allowing re-use. What was your motivation for publishing the translation of your book openly and under this license, in other words what was your motivation to change your pattern?

I wanted to make the book as widely accessible as possible, and open access is the best strategy to do this. Thus I learned from the publisher (JHU Press) that my book was downloaded already over 40.000 times in the first month only. So for creating impact, open access seems a fantastic way to go. As to the CC-BY licence: this was entirely the publisher’s choice.

In the acknowledgements of World of Patterns, you mention various funding sources. Could you elaborate on your experience in gathering funding for an open access version?

My previous funding sources, such as NWO Vici and NWO Gravitation, did not involve funding for open access. But in the recent past I did ask for funding to make our book series The Making of the Humanities open access(three volumes published together with Jaap Maat and Thijs Weststeijn by Amsterdam University Press, 2010, 2012, 2014). We obtained small amounts of funding from different foundations, including the J.E. Jurriaanse Foundation and the Dr. C. Louise Thijssen-Schoute Foundation. This involved quite some work, as it meant that we had to apply several times for small amounts of funding for each volume.

Did unrestricted access help you to reach new audiences compared to traditional publishing?

Definitely, I noticed that I have several readers from the Global South who might not have been able to read my book if they had to pay for it.

What is your view in general on open access academic book publishing, its benefits, or limitations?

I am generally positive and I believe NWO should use its open access fund also for books that are not the product of one of its funded project (my book was in fact the result of an NWO Open Competition project). It would be fantastic if many more scholars can publish their books open access, as it would increase accessibility which may be especially important for other parts of the world. Sure, there are also some disadvantages: it becomes very easy to re-use just a chapter or even a smaller part of the book without taking into account its context. People can simply copy and paste. But of course these are the consequences of our digital world. So far, I haven’t seen any misuse or abuse of my book, so perhaps the risks are not that high.

In World of Patterns you examined where our knowledge of the world began and how it developed. What is your perspective on the direction of knowledge development in the future?

That’s the hardest question to tackle. It appears that all knowledge will continue to be based on patterns (regularities, laws), principles (deeper generalizations, deterministic or statistical) and the relations between these two (inductive, deductive, abductive). I noticed in my historical research that there can also be patterns in the relations between patterns and principles, and even more: principles underlying these patterns in the relations. Now I realize this gets terribly abstract, but if we look at a variety of disciplines, such as artificial intelligence, digital history, medical information science and forensic science, then we find the re-use of successful derivations between patterns and principles all the time. It seems that this might be a promising way for future knowledge development.

International Open Access Week interview: NWO-funded book editor Karène Sanchez-Summerer

Since the start of our collaboration with NWO – The Dutch Research Council, the OAPEN Library has seen the NWO collection grow, now containing almost 200 titles. To celebrate Open Access Week, OAPEN asked authors/editors of books arising from NWO-funding to share their experiences and views, the second interview is with Karène Sanchez-Summerer:

Karène Sanchez-Summerer, Professor and Chair Middle East Studies, Faculty of Arts at Groningen University. She obtained her PhDs from Leiden University and EPHE (Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Paris Sorbonne). Her research considers the interactions between European linguistic and cultural policies and the Arab communities (1860-1948) in Palestine.  Currently, she is the PI of the research project CrossRoads: European cultural diplomacy and Arab Christians in Palestine. A connected history during the formative years of the Middle East (1920-1950) funded by The Netherlands National Research Agency (NWO). Five books by Karène Sanchez-Summerer are included in the OAPEN Library.

Just recently you published a book titled The House of the Priest. An Orthodox Palestinian Life (1885-1954) which is included in the OAPEN Library collection. This book is the result of the CrossRoads project funded by NWO. Could you tell us some more about your motivations for conducting this research project?

This project aims to revisit the relationship between the European cultural agenda and the local identity formation process, and social and religious transformations of Arab Christian communities in Palestine, when the British ruled (1918-1948). When we started, our main questions were: what was the role of culture in European policies regarding the Arabs of Palestine; how did Arab Christians use culture to define their place in the proto-national and religious configuration between 1920 and 1950? Eighteen months after the beginning of the project, we found in Lebanon (Beirut) so far unpublished and untranslated memoirs of Niqula Khoury, a senior member of the Orthodox Church and Arab nationalist in late Ottoman and British Mandate Palestine. This amazing manuscript discusses the complex relationships between language, religion, diplomacy and identity in the Middle East in the interwar period. We wanted to share an annotated translation of this precious and significant manuscript to explain Khoury’s memoirs and their significance for the social, political and religious histories of twentieth-century Palestine and Arab relations with the Greek Orthodox church. Khoury played a major role in these dynamics as a leading member of the fight for Arab presence in the Greek-dominated clergy, and for an independent Palestine, travelling in 1937 to Eastern Europe and the League of Nations on behalf of the national movement.

This is one of two books, available in the OAPEN Library, from the new peer-reviewed series, Christians and Jews in Muslim Societies, published by Brill. Previously you have also published your work with Springer (now SpringerNature). What was your experience with these publishers?

I’ve published several volumes in OA the last years, with Brill, and, though different with Springer (an extended book proposal is evaluated), the process went rather smoothly. The publishers wanted to know whether the book was going to be open access before starting the editing process. In addition, you can apply for NWO’s Open access books fund only after the book has been accepted for publication by the publisher (which was my case for the House of the Priest). As for the NWO Open books grant is concerned, I thought it was a very easy process, so I recommend it to anyone who would like their book to reach out to a bigger audience. Open access might cause some delay in the publication, but the advantages are worth it. 

Your recent books are published under an open license, CC-BY, making it freely available and granting others a certain level of re-use, what was your motivation for publishing the book openly and under this license?

First of all, I believe any academic endeavour should be open to the public. Since this book is the result of an NWO project, which was paid for by public funds, open access is now required.  Furthermore, working as a scholar on Middle Eastern studies, I’ve seen various academic settings and open access is essential in regions where many do not have access to print copies, fewer institutions can afford subscriptions.

How do you think academia and society at large can benefit from your book being available open access?

Scholars working on the Middle East can now easily prescribe parts of the book to their students, it gives them an easy access to a source translated from Arabic, all the more relevant that it is a critical edition. They can also prescribe only some of the chapters, so that students get an idea of certain aspects only (for example the Arabs in Europe and their political representation during the interwar period). The fact that institutions/individuals don’t have to purchase the book makes it easier to prescribe only some parts of it. 

It has been a while since you have published these books. Did unrestricted access in any way help you to reach new audiences? In new, unexpected ways or in any way different compared to traditional publishing? If yes, how do you know this?

The creative commons engage audiences beyond the traditional readers, broadening and diversifying the audiences who get access to the book, anyone can access it. We were contacted by various types of readers, in Europe and from the Middle East – we even received a message with photos of the persons mentioned in the manuscripts (1920’s and 1930’s). The book The House of the Priest has been published just before the summer; we are eager to receive more reactions in the future.

Looking at your own publishing journey, have your views on open access book publishing, its benefits or limitations in any way changed over the years?

I was always convinced by the necessity to share widely publications, to make them available to various audiences, and that all students and scholars, all the more so when they are from/in Middle Eastern countries, in my particular case, should easily and immediately access them. Over the years, this opinion was only reinforced.  

International Open Access Week interview: NWO-funded book editor Janneke van Bergen

Since the start of our collaboration with NWO – The Dutch Research Council, the OAPEN Library has seen the NWO collection grow, now containing almost 200 titles. To celebrate Open Access Week, OAPEN asked authors/editors of books arising from NWO-funding to share their experiences and views, kicking off with Janneke van Bergen.

Janneke van Bergen is a landscape architect and PhD researcher at the TU Delft. Over the past decade she worked in the field of water and infrastructure, including Room for the River, the National Coastal Delta Program and Studio Coastal Quality. She currently works for the ShoreScape research, funded by NWO Top Sector Water Program, to investigate Building with Nature and coastal design.

Building with Nature is a concept where nature is used to cope with climate change risks, such as floods, waves, and sea level rise. You have recently published a book on Building with Nature perspectives which is included in the OAPEN Library collection. Could you tell us some more about this concept and your research project?

Within the ShoreScape project we combine research from coastal engineering and landscape architecture to promote Building with Nature (BwN) along urbanized sandy shores. In this research we develop design principles to stimulate dune formation after nourishment and reduce the negative effects of beach urbanization. The collaboration promoted new joint insights on BwN, and gave incentive to a publication on this topic: Building with Nature perspectives. This publication was funded by NWO and DIMI, a fund focusing on interfaculty research.

You published your work in TU Delft Open Publishing which follows a diamond business model. What was your experience with the publisher?

We collaborated with Research in Urbanism Series (RIUS), a scientific journal, that took well care of the publication process within TU Delft Open Publishing.

Your book is published under an open license, CC-BY, making it freely available and granting others a certain level of re-use, what was your motivation for publishing the book openly and under this license?

I think it is important for emerging fields of science, such as Building with Nature, to share scientific perspectives and work towards an overarching agenda, besides more specialist, mono-disciplinary publications. This will help to build new layers of innovative, joint knowledge.

It has been more than a year since you have published this book. Did unrestricted access in any way help you to reach new audiences? In new, unexpected ways or in any way different compared to traditional publishing? If yes, how do you know this?

It was a good way to reach a hybrid audience of both coastal engineers, spatial designers and even social sciences to cross the bridge to other disciplines working on the concept of Building with Nature. It has increased the interest for our ShoreScape publications from both disciplines (documented by ResearchGate), that otherwise would have been limited to our own disciplines only.

This year’s theme for the International Open Access Week is “open for climate justice’’. How do you think society at large can benefit from climate research being openly available, and your book being OA (Open Access)?

Certainly, I think climate adaptation is urgent, therefore is not just an academic, but public matter where all parties should be involved in. It will help academics to open up their specialisms to the social perspective, and the public to making conscious choices for climate-proof evolution.

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