Supporting Early Career OA: The Liverpool University Press Authors Fund

University presses have a duty to experiment with new models of scholarly communication—but also an obligation not to be profligate. I have no wish to add to the endless verbiage on one such model, open access, but colleagues may find something of interest in the Liverpool University Press Authors Fund.

For anything relating to OA, one must always declare a position. Mine, for the most part, follows the eminently sensible Joe Esposito: OA is additive, not substitutive, and for certain people in certain situations it will be an appealing option. For many others, it won't. Turning to the former category—those who want OA publication—and assuming that in order to maximise the impact of their research they privilege gold open access, some funding is usually required. Those who advocate gold open access in the humanities and social sciences are a fairly broad church, with reasons for their OA enthusiasm ranging from ideology to interdisciplinarity, from funder requirements to simple curiosity. But, alas, the playing field for funded gold OA is not always a level one, and to that end Liverpool University Press has turned its attention to those least likely to have funding support: the early career researcher.

With limited resources available for gold open access, early career colleagues face two particular barriers. First, they must compete with established scholars while they build a successful track record of publication. Second, if OA funding is allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, early career colleagues may be disadvantaged: by heavy teaching commitments, by less likely eligibility for research leave, and, above all, by engagement in learning a new career. To address this, LUP arrived at the same broad destination as Stanford UP and its author fund, albeit from a different direction of travel (Stanford's author fund, as conceived by director Alan Harvey, focuses on the first monograph) and without prior knowledge of that fine initiative.

Our rules are that the Liverpool University Press Authors Fund be used to support open access publication by early career researchers in the humanities and social sciences. All LUP authors may donate all or part of their royalties to the fund. Earnings from the fund will be match-funded by LUP and allocated to a rigorously peer-reviewed early-career publication. I'll say that inelegant phrase again: Earnings from the fund will be match-funded by LUP. Why do this? There are a number of reasons: we felt it important to walk the walk as well as talk the talk, if we wanted authors to participate. We also felt that this might be one mechanism whereby we can avoid double dipping. Computing the possible impact on subscription prices of a small and uncertain number of article processing charges paid would be a challenge for a small scholarly publisher, but if we can put some money back into supporting OA, we avoid accusations that we benefit twice (even if we are careful to publish OA articles in addition, rather than in place of, those for which a subscription has been paid).

Although we have not paid out from the fund yet, take-up has been modestly successful with around two dozen authors signing up to donate their royalties in the first few months. Of particular note is the fact that these are, by and large, very senior figures in their respective fields from Harvard, Duke, Oxford and other top institutions, and 25% of them hold endowed chairs. There are different ways to interpret this, but I take it to mean that these distinguished scholars care about the future of their disciplines and will do all they can to nurture the next generation. When we come to allocate the fund, it will almost certainly be against article processing charges for LUP journals—that is, our books authors will subsidise journal articles by early career colleagues. The decision will be taken by the press's editors with input from academic advisors and will be based solely on scholarly merit.

While the Liverpool University Press Authors Fund is not a game changer or a political statement, and it does not impact on our successful core business, we expect it to be an effective tool for facilitating gold open access publishing for those at the start of their academic careers.

Anthony Cond
Director, Liverpool University Press