Martin Eve: The future of humanities research work and OA monographs | Wonkhe
flavoursofopenscience's bookmarks 2020-11-09
In 2020, the novel coronavirus snatched much of our vibrant cultural lives from under our noses. The focus changed, almost overnight, from living to surviving.
Also, rightly, with the world’s hopes pinned on a vaccine, science has taken centre stage. Parts of the academy – the natural sciences – have been thrust into the limelight.
Not an even light
Other areas are being plunged into darkness. Cuts in humanities department across the nation (and, indeed, the world) proceed apace. There have already been redundancies at UK universities in humanities departments and more appear planned. Just as the virus starved us of theatres, live music, and comedy – and although the humanities consistently protest that we are always under attack – the study of culture at university level has already begun to suffer, pitted in a zero-sum game against our academic cousins in scientific disciplines.
A similar, worrying, trend can be seen in research publication cultures. A great deal of recent argument has centred on the need for open-access to scientific research – and especially that concerning Covid. Yet the humanities continue to lag behind on open access. This applies particularly to academic research books (or monographs), a core output type in subjects like history and English that is less commonly seen in the sciences. These books frequently cost upwards of £60 per copy, and reach only 200 academic libraries or so worldwide.
As it currently stands we are heading towards a world in which every piece of scientific research is free to read, to anyone, on the internet. This is laudable. At the same time, this future world is one where the vast majority of humanities research is expensive and hard to access. It is a world where the study of culture is confined to those who can afford to pay or those who are at institutions with access. It is a dire world for humanities research and equitable education.