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Wellcome Trust, Palgrave Macmillan Publish Their First Open-Access Monograph

'Fungal Disease' book jacketLast May the Wellcome Trust, a leading British sponsor of biomedical research, expanded its support for open access to include monographs as well as journal articles. In partnership with the trust, Palgrave Macmillan has just put out its first open-access monograph—a notable step, albeit not a cheap one, toward expanding open-access monograph-publishing options for researchers.

The monograph is a history-of-medicine study, Fungal Disease in Britain and the United States, 1850-2000, by Aya Homei and Michael Worboys. Digital copies of the book can be downloaded free from Palgrave Connect or retailers like Amazon.com, thanks to the Wellcome Trust’s having stepped up to cover Palgrave’s publication charges of £11,000 (about $17,700 at current exchange rates).

“We wanted to come up with a model that was sustainable for our business,” says Carrie Calder, Palgrave’s director of market development. “This really covers everything from the editing to the distribution to the bibliodata to the marketing.” Still, she says, the publisher recognizes that such fees mean the open-access program is “not accessible for some researchers.”

Other publishers charge even more to produce an open-access monograph, according to Ms. Calder. (See Palgrave’s author FAQ.) She points out that, unlike commercial competitors, the publisher has decided to make digital copies of open-access books freely available and to offer a CC-BY license, a Creative Commons license that permits a work to be reused, even commercially, with proper attribution.

Palgrave does not really expect to make a profit off open-access books, Ms. Calder says, so it must cover its costs upfront. “This level of funding is part of the challenge for open access in the humanities and social sciences,” she says. Still, researchers have said they want more options, and “open access is something that we’re very keen to evolve and experiment in across all of our formats.”

One of the book’s authors sounds happy with the experience so far. Mr. Worboys directs the Center for the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine at the University of Manchester. “We are delighted that our book is being published open access and feel that it will ensure that our subject, the history of fungal disease, will enjoy a much wider audience than would otherwise have been the case,” he wrote in a November 14 post on the London School of Economics and Political Science’s Impact of Social Sciences blog.

The process of reviewing, editing, and producing the manuscript was “the same as with the normal hardback,” he added. “The only difference was the extra work needed to obtain permission to use images, in large part due to having to explain the principles and practice of open access to copyright holders, simply because of its novelty—none refused.”

Ms. Calder of Palgrave says the publisher hopes to issue more open-access titles next year, probably in partnership with the Wellcome Trust.

[Book-jacket image courtesy of Palgrave Macmillan.]

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