An interview with Professor Dave Reay
The open access book Climate-Smart Food introduces the concept of climate-smart food, whereby climate resilience and productivity are increased while greenhouse gas emissions are simultaneously reduced. The book reached almost 40,000 chapter downloads in the first year.
We spoke to the author, Professor Dave Reay.
Springer Nature: Why did you choose to make your book available on an open access basis?
Dave Reay: My past books have all been on climate change and have done quite well sales-wise, but always hit the barrier of paywalls. This was really frustrating when as an author I wanted to get the world out on the challenges and solutions of climate change to as many people as possible. So, for ‘Climate-Smart Food’ I was determined to make it as accessible as possible and so the open access route was ideal.
How was the open access fee (book processing charge) funded?
The University of Edinburgh were great in supporting this financially so we could make open access worldwide. Key to this was that much of the research and thinking that went into the book stemmed from my many years of research support from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) here in the UK. Given it drew so heavily on publicly-funded research and is a very public-focussed book, we could make a strong case for it being open access.
Tell us about the relationship with your funder – do they have a strong open access policy? How did you start working with them?
I’ve been at the University of Edinburgh for almost 20 years and throughout that time they’ve been really good at helping to ensure papers (and now this book) are open access. This is supported by the research councils in the UK (UKRI) and in particular the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) - as a frequent grant holder for NERC this then allowed a clear pathway to support for open access to my research.
Why did you choose to publish this book with Springer/Palgrave Macmillan?
A long and really good working relationship - my first book ‘Climate Change Begins at Home’ was published with the then Macmillan Science imprint and I was blessed with the best editor (Sara Abdulla) and support an author could ever wish for. Since then I’ve published a children’s book (‘Your Planet Needs You!’) with Macmillan Children’s books, and also ‘Nitrogen & Climate Change’ with Palgrave. Every time the editorial support has been brilliant and the publication process slick and far-reaching.
How were you hoping that open access would help with achieving your goals?
Reach. Being open access means anyone can read it, from a high school student researching an essay, through popular science readers and specialist academics, through to farmers, growers and fisherfolk themselves.
What benefits or impact have you seen from publishing this book open access? Do you think publishing OA helped?
The numbers are pretty astonishing - near 123k downloads at last count, and that’s just for one online platform. The fact that you can easily access specific chapters seems to be really popular - I’ve loved watching which foods and drinks in the book get the most downloads: coffee, chocolate and champagne seem to be some of the most popular!
How did you promote the book?
Mainly through Twitter (@keelingcurve) and LinkedIn. I wrote a few blogs and gave several public talks but social media seems to have been one of the most powerful ways to promote it.
Do you have any advice to others considering publishing their next book or chapter open access?
Do it. Talk to your institution and find out what support they might give. Make the case that there is a duty that our research, especially if publicly-funded, should also be publicly-accessible. If you are in it for the royalties then this route isn’t for you (there are no royalties). But if you want your book to reach around the world and inform a readership you’d never normally be able to speak to then open access is for you.
Would you publish open access again?
Definitely. I can’t imagine any other way now. Watch out University of Edinburgh open access team as I’ll be knocking on your door again soon.
The interview was originally published in The Source in 2020 and updated in November 2021