Open scholarship in the humanities

Publishing impact according to Sven Dupré

Sven Dupré, Professor of History of Art, Science and Technology at Utrecht University (History & Art History) and the University of Amsterdam (Conservation & Restoration), shares his ideas on the growing interest for open science/scholarship in the humanities. As Editor-in-Chief of an open access journal he has experienced the benefits of free accessible research from up close.

What does the concept of open science/open scholarship mean for your research area?

 "In my  daily practice I notice that open science (or open scholarship, since the English term ‘science’ excludes the humanities) is usually associated with open access publishing. However, a gradual change is taking place, and the realisation grows that open science/scholarship, also in the field of history and art history, entails much more than that. It also offers more opportunities for researchers and does not only limit or even threat your work. It is also about open data, and this invites historians and art historians to reflect on what data actually is, and how it can be documented and communicated. But it also forces researchers to reflect on methods of historical research and on the relevance and feasibility of replication in the field of history and art history.

But open scholarship is also about acknowledging public engagement as we have begun to call it in Utrecht. It is an encouragement for us as humanities scholars to join the public debate with a view to involving society in our research. I also think we have the expertise to not only develop research that is immediately applicable to the problems we are facing now, but also to conduct research of which the public relevance is not clear at once. In this way we will be able to put problems on the agenda in the long run and to decide what actors we need to invite to help solve them.”

How do you put this into practice?

As a researcher I am working more and more in teams. For instance, at the moment I am leading an European Research Council project  ARTECHNE in which art historians, curators, restorers, historians of science and technology collaborate and publish together. This is a far cry from the image of an art historian who spends years alone working on a book. Moreover, art historians have been used for a long time to actively involve museums in their research. We also work together with artists (for instance Claudy Jongstra) in the Back to Black project and conduct participative research in which the audience plays an active role. The results of that particular research we publish in open access, such as the Burgundian Black book which will be published at EMC Imprint, an open access publisher affiliated with the University of California. Publishing in this manner allows for experiments with format and multimedia in the book.

I am becoming more and more convinced of the social relevance of the research we are doing into materials and techniques in art history. For instance, finding an alternative for the polluting materials and processes of today lies in the rediscovery and activation of materials and techniques from a more distant past. As research leader, and recently also as research director of the Institute of Art and Art History, I also promote supporting and appreciating relevant social research, public engagement and outreach. It used to be that researchers were only sent in the direction of the large grants (NWO-Talent Programme, European Research Council), whereas now there is more thought for the diversity of researchers’ careers. Of course it is a good thing if you tick all the boxes to get such a large and individual grant, but if your talent lies in collaborating with other researchers and social partners, or in writing a book for the general audience, you deserve a chance to do it.”

You are Editor-in-Chief of the newly set up full-open access Journal for the History of Knowledge (JHoK). Could you tell us a bit more how this came about and which basic principles were defining for you and the editorial board?

 “JHoK is a so-called ‘diamond’ open access journal. This means no costs are involved for the readers (anyone with a computer and an internet connection can read it) and for the authors. It is important to realise that there is always someone paying for a publication, and in the world of open access publishing there is a shift going on from the reader to the author who is basically responsible for paying the so-called Article Processing Charges (APCs). In the case of JhoK this is the responsibility of Ubiquity Press, the open access publisher with whom we decided to work on recommendation of Publishing Support of Utrecht University Library.”

Our basic philosophy is one of inclusive authorship; there may be no financial barriers for authors wanting to publish with us. That is however one of the risks of the shift to open access publishing.

Sven Dupré
Sven Dupré

But in the case of JHoK the authors pay nothing, because their APCs are funded by Gewina (the society that owns the journal) and by a number of research institutes in the field of the history of science (including  the Descartes Centre of Utrecht University). This is crucial because our basic philosophy is one of inclusive authorship; there may be no financial barriers for authors wanting to publish with us. That is however one of the risks of the shift to open access publishing: high APCs which prevent authors without large NWO grants or who are not affiliated with financially sound universities, from publishing in a highly recommended journal. I think that making inclusive authorship possible is an important task for an “old” and learned society such as Gewina in this new 21st century world of open scholarship. Besides I also think that universities follow a more sustainable course when they focus on this form of academic-led open access publishing.”

The first issue has been recently published. What have you noticed now that all articles are freely accessible and can be shared to a maximum degree?

In July the first “issue” of JHok was published, a panel discussion about ‘What is History of Knowledge?’ It is remarkable that it not only generates lots of attention on social media (Twitter in the first place) and also outside the discipline, but mainly that three months later articles gained more than 400 individual views and were downloaded more than a hundred times. As to individual views, this pretty nearly reaches the number of Gewina members, who in another ‘older’ world would have found a printed copy on their doormats or in their pigeon holes. I think that we can safely assume that not all members would have seen that article, let alone have read it. If you look at it that way, we can say that articles in JHoK already have a much larger reach than a journal only for members and subscribers. That goal is not only potentially but also effectively achieved.”

Do you want to find more inspiring impact stories? Or would you like to share your own experiences? Read the other impact stories or contact the library.