ASP Open helps democratize research and increase visibility

This is a guest post from Matthew Charlton, Sales, Marketing, & Open Access Manager at Academic Studies Press.

Though a relatively small, independent publisher working primarily in the humanities and social sciences, Academic Studies Press touts an impressive open access (OA) program. Since launching in 2016, we have envisioned our dedicated OA initiative, ASP Open, as a way to democratize research and increase the overall visibility of our content. To date, we are pleased to say that we have published 66 OA books and 20 OA articles which have cumulatively been accessed or downloaded on a book, chapter, or article level over 130,000 times in over 150 countries at more than 1,800 colleges and universities. The enormous success of this program has far surpassed our original expectations and has demonstrated that there is a genuine global appetite for the scholarship ASP publishes. As the ongoing discussion around OA evolves, we continue to develop our OA program to better meet the needs of all stakeholders involved, with a particular focus on those who produce the content—our authors—and those who access it—our readers. As we celebrate 2019’s International Open Access Week, I’d like to take this moment to recap some of our OA achievements and to highlight the program we have built.  

In 2017, we worked with the Borderlines Foundation for Academic Studies to release 42 titles as freely available digital books. The project—made possible by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Humanities Open Book grant program—focused on ASP’s impressive backlist of titles in Slavic studies, including many first-ever translations of seminal works in Russian literary and cultural history, many first-ever English-language studies of key figures in Russian literature, and many original studies based on rare archival materials. As many of these titles were published in the early, developing years of the press, ASP worked in partnership with the Borderlines Foundation to demonstrate that the books’ original distribution and initial sales figures belied their intellectual significance and potential to contribute meaningfully to teaching and research in the humanities and to the edification of the general reader. Titles were curated into five thematic categories, including The New Eighteenth Century, Rediscovering the Russian Canon, Judaism and Its Interlocutors, Vernacular Modernisms, and Reading and Rereading Nabokov, and included titles as diverse as Boris Uspenskij & Viktor Zhivov’s “Tsar and God” and Other Essays in Russian Cultural Semiotics, Robin Aizlewood & Ruth Coates’s Landmarks Revisited: The Vekhi Symposium 100 Years On, and Julian W. Connolly’s A Reader’s Guide to Nabokov’s ‘Lolita’. All titles were released in both PDF and EPUB file formats, made accessible through a variety of discovery services and repositories, and archived digitally to ensure future uninterrupted access. The project as a whole was advertised widely in relevant journals, listservs, and newsletters, through push notifications to academic libraries and catalogs mailed to instructors, and presented at relevant conferences. ASP continues to promote the project today and to evaluate the effect releasing content OA has on print sales. A white paper discussing the project’s initial results one year after completion was published in 2018 and we remain dedicated to building upon and sharing the analytics and further findings going forward.

Over the past few years, ASP Open has also worked closely with the library crowdsourcing platform Knowledge Unlatched (KU), perhaps best known for their program KU Select. This initiative allows publishers to submit a selection of both backlist and frontlist titles to be considered for OA funding. These submissions are then evaluated by a team of over 150 professional librarians who, in turn, form multi-publisher collections containing the titles they deem most interesting for libraries and readers worldwide. KU then presents these curated collections to institutions who commit funds in support of releasing the proposed content OA. To date, ASP has received KU support for 6 backlist titles and 4 frontlist titles, including Irina Astashkevich’s Gendered Violence: Jewish Women in the Pogroms of 1917 to 1921 and, most recently, Maarten Coëgnarts’s Film as Embodied Art: Bodily Meaning in the Cinema of Stanley Kubrick. We are incredibly grateful for the logistical support KU provides and to the dozens of global libraries that help support OA publications. In addition, we work with KU to supply comprehensive analytics of our OA content, which includes the number of downloads and views per title and specific geographic information on where the content is accessed—valuable information to all stakeholders involved. Further, we have worked with KU as they have developed their KU Open Funding platform, which allows publishers to visibly present their respective OA programs in a transparent, comprehensive manner, allowing researchers to find the best fitting OA offer for their publication needs with effective search functions. We look forward to our continued partnership with KU and plan on announcing additional collaborations in the near future.

ASP Open has also been fortunate to work with several prestigious organizations to release OA content. This includes the Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education, which has graciously helped make important titles on Jewish learning freely accessible, such as Advancing the Learning Agenda in Jewish Education edited by Jon A. Levisohn and Jeffrey S. Kress and Learning to Read Talmud: What It Looks Like and How It Happens edited by Jane L. Kanarek & Marjorie Lehman. We have also worked with the Warsaw-based POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews to make openly available New Directions in the History of the Jews in the Polish Lands edited by Antony Polonsky, Hanna Węgrzynek, & Andrzej Żbikowski. The value of making this historically-rich and education-focused content free to access on a global scale for generations to come is immeasurable.

Additionally, ASP has made freely available several articles from its journals publication program. This includes the entire first issue of Studies in Judaism, Humanities and the Social Sciences and select articles from the most recent issue of the Journal of Contemporary Antisemistim. Particularly exciting have been the articles released OA in Evolutionary Studies in Imaginative Culture. Highlights include Francis T. McAndrew’s “The Psychology, Geography, and Architecture of Horror: How Places Creep Us Out“ and Richard G. Coss’s “Drawings of Representational Images by Upper Paleolithic Humans and their Absence in Neanderthals Reflect Historical Differences in Hunting Wary Game”. We expect the OA output in our journals program to grow over time.

As a member of Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA), ASP adheres to its Principles of Transparency and Best Practice in Scholarly Publishing. ASP Open strives to be transparent at every step of the publication process, from the submission, funding, and peer review of a manuscript to its eventual publication and available usage analytics. Today, I am very pleased to say we have developed a robust OA program. Like all titles published by Academic Studies Press, ASP Open titles are rigorously peer-reviewed, professionally copyedited and indexed, and carefully proofread. We simultaneously publish both hardback and paperback editions of titles enrolled in the program, releasing a freely digital edition on the publication date. Carefully crafted metadata indicating the release of the OA edition is released month’s before publication to guarantee that libraries are aware of all available formats. Upon release, the OA edition is digitally archived in Portico, ensuring content is freely accessible to researchers, scholars, and students in the future. All ASP Open books also receive the same dedicated sales, marketing, and global distribution that ASP books receive. In addition, the OA publication is made available or accessible via a variety of repositories and discovery services, including—but limited to—the Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB), EBSCO Discovery Service, Google Books/Scholar, OCLC Worldcat, JSTOR, Open Access Publishing in European Networks (OAPEN), and ASP Open’s own repository. Further, high quality MARC Records are created for every title in partnership with OCLC and direct push notifications are distributed to over 500 libraries. ASP Open also creates specialized catalogs for OA titles and ensures that all dedicated book pages and marketing materials indicate the book is freely available in digital format. All ASP Open titles are protected by Creative Commons licenses. Our standard license is CC-BY-NC, which requires the author to be attributed wherever the work is shared and restricts commercial use of content.

With this year’s International Open Access Week’s theme as “Open for Whom? Equity in Open Knowledge”, we continue to think about ways we can make our OA program more accessible to all. Undoubtedly, we are dedicated to providing a great OA service to our authors and to our readers and we strive to identify those voices that may be excluded in the OA process and to provide equitable participation in research communication. For those authors interested in publishing with ASP Open or for those current ASP authors who are interested in retroactively releasing their work OA, we encourage you to contact us. ASP Open is dedicated to working with all authors to increase the overall distribution of their work and to democratize their content across the globe.