Publication of Universities UK Open Access Monograph report

Publication of Universities UK Open Access Monograph report

8 October 2019

A report published today, Tuesday 8 October 2019, presents new evidence on academic book publishing in the UK, and puts forward a set of stakeholder recommendations to be considered as part of the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and Research Excellence Framework (REF) Open Access reviews.  

The report has been published by the Universities UK (UUK) Open Access Monographs Group. A data analysis of Open Access books in the UK, carried out by fullstopp GmbH and supported by Research England and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (both part of UK Research and Innovation), Jisc and the British Academy, has also been published alongside the UUK report.  

The UUK report draws on a quantitative analysis of the current landscape of long-form publications in the higher education sector, and its engagement with more than 90 organisations at two events, including publishers, learned societies, subject associations and research libraries.

The report highlights that:

  • The benchmark for OA books returned to the REF is low. Only 46 out of over 12,700 titles submitted to Panel C and D in REF 2014 are available open access;
  • Around seventy percent of publisher sales take place in the first two years after publication, with 80 percent of sales taking place in the first three years;
  •  Authors and publishers are concerned about the implications of open access on trade books, which have a broader public appeal;
  • Academic book publishing is an international activity, with 22 percent of long-form publications returned to Panel C and D in the REF 2014 published with a press based outside of the UK. Funders and policy-makers should recognize the importance of this activity.
  • There is a need for strong leadership from institutional senior management teams. Mentoring and peer-to-peer support within and across universities should be encouraged.
  • Approximately 50 percent of the annual library book acquisition budget is spent purchasing ‘frontlist’ titles (those published since 2016) with around 15 percent is spent on acquiring ‘deep backlist’ books (titles first published more than ten years ago).

In response to the findings, the report makes a series of recommendations:

  1. Immediate open access for all monographs may not be feasible. Rather, policy should consider a mixed-model approach that offers various routes to policy compliance (including one which offers a suitable delayed access period);
  2. The trade book should be exempt from a future OA policy on monographs;
  3. Universities should demonstrate their commitment to developing and promoting best practice in the assessment of scholarly research by adopting the principles enshrined in the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA), or equivalent.
  4. Appropriate sector organisations should work with HE libraries to develop training and information materials for librarians and academics.
  5. HE libraries (working individually or collaboratively) might consider the establishment of a central ‘hub’ where researchers can obtain accurate and up-to-date information on OA and books;

Steven Hill, Director of Research at Research England, said: “We welcome the publication of the report, which is an important contribution to the conversation about Open Access.

“The report provides a robust evidence base to inform future work and we will consider the recommendations in the development of future policy and processes, including the ongoing UKRI Open Access Review.”

The UUK OA monograph group, chaired by Professor Roger Kain, Professor of Humanities at the School of Advanced Study, was established in late 2016 to monitor and evaluate progress towards open access publishing for academic books.

Professor Kain said: “Universities UK considers it crucial that the research community engages actively with the development of policy for Open Access monographs.

“Monographs are complex, longitudinal pieces of work that represent years of scholarly activity and are particularly significant for communicating excellent research in the arts, humanities and social sciences. Open Access policy should support and not compromise this excellence.”

Findings from the report will inform the UKRI OA review, which is scheduled to go out to consultation later in October 2019. A consultation for the OA policy for the REF-after-next will take place in 2020.  

Books and book chapters are also in scope of Plan S, an open access initiative which aims for full and immediate publications derived from publicly-funded research. In May 2019, Plan S guidance indicated that guidance for long-form outputs will be issued by the end of 2021.

View the report at

Notes to Editors

For further information contact or 01793 234136.

Research England shapes healthy, dynamic research and knowledge exchange in English universities. It distributes over £2.2bn to universities in England every year; works to understand their strategies, capabilities and capacity; and supports and challenges universities to create new knowledge, strengthen the economy, and enrich society. Research England is part of UK Research and Innovation alongside the seven Research Councils and Innovate UK.