Knowledge Unlatched has moved swiftly since its incorporation as a not-for-profit Community Interest Company (C.I.C.) in the summer. Negotiations with publishers, libraries and research funders from across the world are well under way and Knowledge Unlatched is on track for the launch of its full-scale open-access publishing pilot in 2013.
Policy shifts towards open access in the US, UK, Europe and Australia have helped to galvanise publisher interest to participate in open access experiments. Subsidies are being withdrawn from some university presses in all markets and all publishers are eager to find strategies for keeping their monograph programmes alive. Knowledge Unlatched has been well received as offering the potential to reduce costs to libraries while also offering monograph publishers a commercially sustainable open access route forward.
We have been very pleased by the level of interest being expressed by a wide range of publishers globally in the Knowledge Unlatched pilot. We expect to be able to begin announcing participating publishers early next year.
A key element of ensuring that participating in Knowledge Unlatched is as easy as possible for member libraries will be the availability of premium editions (either print or digital) of ‘unlatched’ books at a discount. Libraries have indicated that they would like to be able to purchase these discounted editions of unlatched titles through their regular suppliers. Discussions with the main library suppliers suggest that this is something that they would be willing and able to implement.
A very significant proportion of our time at Knowledge Unlatched over the last six months has been spent speaking to stakeholders in Europe and North America. This has included speaking at a number of important conferences - including the well-known meeting of librarians in Charleston, where Knowledge Unlatched won its first award.
Knowledge Unlatched, Finch, and the European Directive on Open Access
The recommendations of the Working Group on Expanding Access to Published Research Findings, chaired by Dame Janet Finch has sparked heated debate in the UK and more widely about the model for open access journal publishing that has been accepted by the UK government.
The focus of the 150 page Finch Report is primarily on how the transition to open access can be made for journals. There are only two pages in the report on books, noting that the business model(s) needed to support open access are far less developed than in the case of journals. Importantly, the Finch report calls for further experimentation in open access book publishing and contains information on Knowledge Unlatched.
At the EU level, it was announced over the Summer that all research funded through the 80 billion Euro Horizon 2020 program will be required to be Open Access from 2014. This is providing a further incentive for European publishers to explore Open Access models.
At a policy level there is concern that leaving too much power in the hands of research funding bodies will disadvantage the humanities in particular, but also the social sciences. Authors who do not have access to a research grant are responsible for many important HASS books. If publication funding was to be allocated primarily through the research grant system there is a real danger that some authors will be left behind. Knowledge Unlatched provides a way around this problem.
The last six months have been a busy period for Knowledge Unlatched. Important steps towards building a globally coordinated, sustainable open access approach to publishing scholarly books have been made. We have been heartened by the support we are receiving from stakeholders at all levels of scholarly publishing: libraries, publishers, research funders, aggregators, library suppliers and other intermediaries. We are looking forward to being able to make some very exciting announcements over the next few months and are on track for the launch of the 2013 pilot.