Dr Zoe Hope Bulaitis is author of the open access monograph Value and the Humanities: The Neoliberal University and Our Victorian Inheritance (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020). In this interview, she talks about how open access has supported her goals as a book author, and she provides tips for other authors on how to find open access funding and how to promote their own book.
My open access book, Value and the Humanities, engages with ongoing social and political debates concerning the role of the university in the twenty-first century. The book explores interdisciplinary and inter-institutional relationships that collectively articulate the value of the humanities. Therefore, I knew that the potential audience for my book would lie beyond my disciplinary subject area (English) and also be of relevance to those working in museums, cultural policy organisations, and secondary / further education. Open access allowed me to share my research freely without the limitations of digital paywalls or asking people to buy an (let’s face it, expensive) academic book.
The funding came from the University of Exeter’s open access (OA) fund. The research for this particular book project arose out of my doctoral work conducted at that same institution, which was part of the reason that they supported OA funding. The cost of the BPC would have been completely prohibitive to me as an individual to shoulder, so I was very grateful to be able to apply for funds and receive institutional support to make this possible. I am very aware that the funding landscape for OA is continually changing, so
I would recommend opening up a dialogue with the team involved in open research or OA at your university to see what options are available to you.
I reached out to the OA team at my institution once I had secured positive peer-review and was at the contract stage. For me, it was a case of knowing that the book was ready to be published, the interest of the publisher confirmed, and then reaching out to the local OA team. Exeter offered, and I believe continues to offer, a wide range of support around OA, and the library team were able to guide me through all the options around OA (green, gold, platinum etc.).
That said, I believe that many publishers now offer the chance to revise contracts for OA should this funding become available later down the line to allow for flexibility in seeking funding support.
I would encourage anyone interested in exploring this option to have this conversation with their editor during the proposal process.
Three main reasons:
I wanted my book to offer a productive response to the challenges that scholars are facing in the UK, and indeed elsewhere in the world, around the value of the humanities. For me, so much of the public debate concerning universities’ purpose is principally focused on the market-value or economic return-on-investment. I wanted to explore what parts of the value of the humanities are connected with that, but also what kinds of alternative articulations of knowledge-production were being overlooked.
As I said above, I was hoping that OA funding would make my book accessible to researchers in a wide range of fields and people beyond academia. As of May 2021, Value and the Humanities has been downloaded over 6.8k times and I have seen formal academic citations in music studies, sociology, and critical university studies. It’s been less than a year, but I already feel that it is ‘mission accomplished’!
The main benefits have been twofold. First; I am an advocate for free access to education, across the board, and OA research is an important part of that picture. Second,
I have gained much from a wider readership and the ability to direct interested parties, future collaborators and external partners to my research via the Internet.
I promoted the book in a variety of ways. Given the wide relevance of my topic, and how OA meant people could access it, shortly after publication I was invited to share my research in a series of academic seminar, including Southampton Centre for Nineteenth Century Research and Northumbria University’s Power and Politics in Language and Literature group. It’s been good to talk about the research in both historical and modern contexts and to interdisciplinary audiences. In terms of external partner engagement, I took part in Palgrave’s panel on Ethical Futures for a New World as part of the 2020 Being Human Festival. We made a film as part of this which you can view here.
Also, I celebrated the news of the OA publication on social media. I found that Twitter was particularly effective, as I was able to 'pin' the Tweet with a link to my book on my own profile and over 18,000 users have seen that. I also received retweets from publishing accounts at Palgrave (@PalgraveHums, @PalgraveLit) and the Springer Nature Open Access Books account @SN_OAbooks which really helped spread the news in relevant online networks.
I’d recommend it if you can find funding to support it or pursue routes to open access that removes individual BPCs altogether. Things are evolving all the time and I hope that the future will mean OA becomes a standard. Of course, the idea of anyone reading your research can be a bit daunting, but I’ve found that sharing has been really productive.
Yes. I’d like all my research to be openly available to whoever would be interested in reading it. However, as I said above, current demands on individual arrangements per title remain prohibitive for many. I’d like to see publishers, libraries, universities, the government, and academics working to commit to more equitable and accessible forms of support for open access in the future.
This interview was published as part of the Open Access Books in the Humanities campaign.
If you would like to learn more about how to publish an open access book, Springer Nature offers options across disciplines for a variety of book types.
Other blogs you might find interesting:
Dr Zoe Hope Bulaitis is an educator and researcher who is motivated by better articulating the value of the humanities in the twenty-first century. She is currently a Teaching Fellow (incoming Lecturer, September 2021) at the University of Birmingham, UK. Her open access monograph, Value and the Humanities: The Neoliberal University and Our Victorian Inheritance (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020), explores the relationship between nineteenth- and twenty-first-century economics, literature, and higher education. Zoe is currently also co-editor of C21 Literature: Journal of 21st-Century Writings and a member of the Executive Committee for the British Association for Contemporary Literary Studies (BACLS). Tweet her @zoebulaitis.