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First book co-financed by the UG’s OA Book Fund published

Date:28 September 2022
Author:Giulia Trentacosti
Prof. Michiel van der Wolf
Prof. Michiel van der Wolf

The UG recently introduced an open access book fund aimed at stimulating the publication of open access books by UG/UMCG authors. This new funding instrument was launched as a pilot within the Open Science Programme of the UG and will initially run until August 2023. The fund can be used to cover the open access fee, also known as Book Processing Charge (BPC), for the publication of monographs or edited volumes. The maximum reimbursement is 8.000 Euros per publication. 

The first book co-financed by the UG’s open access book fund has just been published: 

Michiel van der Wolf (ed.), Safeguarding the Quality of Forensic Assessment in Sentencing. A Review Across Western Nations, New York: Routledge 2022.

In this interview we discuss the process of publishing and financing an open access book with the author, Prof. Michiel van der Wolf, Associate Professor of Criminal Law at the University of Groningen and Professor of Forensic Psychiatry at Leiden University. 

Abstract of the book

This edited collection provides an interdisciplinary and cross-national perspective on safeguarding the quality of forensic assessment in sentencing offenders. Taking an in-depth look at seven different Western countries, each chapter provides an overview of the role of assessment in sentencing offenders, as well as a focus on formal ways in which the respective country’s legal system and disciplinary associations protect the quality of forensic assessment. Each chapter explores how to assure better decision making in individual cases based on assessments of psychological concepts such as mental disorder/insanity, criminal responsibility and dangerousness. Combining the perspectives of lawyers, legal scholars, and clinicians working in the field, this book is essential for those working in and with forensic assessment.

What motivated you to publish the book open access? 

I think that any academic endeavor should be open to the public. Since this book is the result of an NWO project, which was paid for by public funds, open access is now required. I knew that I wanted to publish the book as part of the International Perspectives on Forensic Mental Health series by Routledge, because it is well known and highly regarded in our field, but I also knew that the series is quite pricey. It is rather expensive to purchase a book from this series [around 40-100 dollars for a paperback and 100-200 for a hardback], which led me to think that open access would also be expensive. 

The publisher informed me that their policy is to encourage authors to find the funds for open access. This doesn’t mean that they are willing to lower the cost that much to facilitate it. I guess that for their business model it is easier to make profit with open access since they gain immediately from the book, without having to sell a copy. But I understand that they want to be compensated for losing sales, given that most people won’t buy the book because it's open access. 

The Book Processing Charge (BPC) for this handbook was € 20.125. How did you cover the fee? 

Publishing this book open access was possible only thanks to external funding. Given that the book was part of an NWO project, they provided financial support (€ 10.000) via their dedicated fund. NWO makes it really easy to apply for this fund. However, with the money received from NWO I was only able to cover half of the BPC. Since the Faculty of Law promotes open access, I talked to my department and explained why it was important to publish this book open access. They decided to cover the remaining amount, under the promise that I would look for additional funding and that's where the open access book fund run by the UB comes in. The timing was great since the fund was launched exactly when I was looking for additional funding. The UG fund is even easier to deal with than NWO’s. I thought it was a very straightforward process, and the communication was excellent also because we are part of the same institution. Actually the trickiest part of the process was having the publisher sign the documents, even though they are the ones getting the money. 

How would you have financed the book without the funds you received? 

It wouldn't be open access. 

Were you surprised at how high the cost was? 

This is the first book that I published open access so I didn't know what the price would be. I guess the price depends also on the average number of copies that the publisher expects to sell, because that's what you want to compensate for. For instance, a handbook could be prescribed for educational purposes, which means that you easily sell a lot of copies. 

Do you think having the book open access will make a difference in terms of how the book is reused (e.g. for education purposes)? 

Yes, that makes it a lot easier. The book includes chapters about seven western world countries: Australia, Canada, the US and several European countries. It's a comparative research project involving academics from different countries. Teachers can now easily prescribe parts of the books to their students. As a teacher in national criminal law you don't necessarily want to teach about other countries. As the book is open access, they can prescribe the chapter about their own country and not use the other chapters or solely as an international comparison so that students get an idea of how it's done in other countries. The fact that you don't have to purchase the book makes it easier to prescribe only some parts of it. 

Regarding valorization, I can just inform news sites or international associations that I'm part of about the possibility of reading the work just by clicking on the link. Open access helps enormously in disseminating academic works.  

Was there a difference in terms of the publication process or was it the same as a closed access book? 

This is the first time I work with Routledge. The publication process started with a book contract. Before getting the book deal, the book plan already underwent peer review. It was quite a long process to get the book deal. And then the book still has to be written. 

Opting for open access did delay the process. The publisher wanted to know whether the book was going to be open access before starting the editing process. In addition, you can apply for NWO’s open access fund only after the book has been accepted for publication by the publisher. It did take some time to prepare the application for the fund and to receive an answer from NWO. All in all, open access caused some delay but the advantages are worth it. 

Often when people publish books open access they think that this automatically excludes royalties. Was this the case? Do you get any royalties from sales of the print edition? 

I think I do. I signed a different contract for the print version. I don't remember a mention of the royalties in the open access contract. 

What do you think about the UG supporting open access books? 

I'm very happy with the fact that the UG thinks open access is important and that they have introduced a dedicated fund. Given how expensive publishing a book open access is, it wouldn't be possible otherwise. Most books that are written are not written as part of an NWO project. Before I heard about the UG open access book fund, I was looking for additional funding sources and I didn’t come across anything apart from NWO’s fund. I am very thankful and honored to be the first author whose book has been funded by the open access book fund. I thought it was a very easy process so I recommend it to anyone who would like to get their book out to a bigger audience. 

Useful links: 

About the author

Giulia Trentacosti
Open Access and Scholarly Communication Specialist, University of Groningen Library
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