Report Open Access

WP7 Scoping Report on Archiving and Preserving OA Monographs

Barnes, Miranda; Bell, Emily; Cole, Gareth; Fry, Jenny; Gatti, Rupert; Stone, Graham

Technical methods for effectively archiving complex digital research publications and for creating an integrated collections of content in different formats have not yet been developed. As part of COPIM, an international partnership of researchers, universities, librarians, open access book publishers and infrastructure providers, WP7 (Work Package 7) have begun by compiling a digital preservation risk register. This report builds on that work in offering an overview of existing preservation solutions for Open Access (OA) research monographs. It brings together interviews conducted with representatives from several university presses and OA presses, and draws on the discussions that took place in a workshop held in September 2020 with a range of professionals in the archiving and preservation domain.

What the interviews and the workshop have indicated is the need for a consensus on file formats, further awareness and a culture shift to acknowledge and respond to the importance of digital preservation, further support and guidance for small and scholar-led publishers to assure equity in the publishing and preservation landscape, and a clear way forward regarding techniques to effectively preserve the components of complex digital monographs, including links and embedded content. A number of opportunities for future work have been highlighted, among them tools, guidance, developing new workflows,  and nurturing a network of advocates in specific communities. These avenues for future work are further elaborated on at the end of this report. 

Background

COPIM (Community-led Open Publication Infrastructures for Monographs) is an international partnership of researchers, universities (Coventry University; Birkbeck, University of London; Lancaster University; and Trinity College, Cambridge), established open access publishers  (the ScholarLed consortium, which includes Mattering Press, meson press, Open Humanities Press, Open Book Publishers and punctum books), libraries (UCSB Library and Loughborough University Library) and infrastructure providers (the Directory of Open Access Books and Jisc).

COPIM is also collaborating closely with institutions such as the British Library and the Digital Preservation Coalition, and with the OPERAS-P project and the Next Generation Library Publishing project, in addition to consortium members. As well, a broad spectrum of academics, publishers, librarians, software developers, funders and others contribute as part of the working groups, events and projects that COPIM is setting up and running. COPIM’s funders are the Research England Development (RED) Fund, and Arcadia — a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin.

The Project is dedicated to investigating the difficulties that impede the progress of small publishers interfacing with large-scale organisations and processes. Through the work of this project, the consortium is in the process of developing a significantly enriched, not-for-profit and open-source ecosystem for open access (OA) book publishing, supporting and sustaining a diversity of publishing initiatives and models, particularly within Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) publishing.

Work Package 7 of the COPIM Project will identify the key challenges associated with archiving research monographs in all their variation and complexity, and work towards developing new solutions. The concept of a monograph as “just” text with the occasional image or table is increasingly outdated. “Books” now come in multiple digital formats (e.g. PDF, XML, EPUB) as well as hardcopy, and can also include embedded material such as videos and interactive 3D models. In some publications, users can interact directly with content hosted externally, such as databases and URLs. As individual objects, each of these formats—such as a PDF file or a video—appear in established guidance and standards for preservation and can be reliably archived with time, effort and resource. Yet how does one archive a “book” which consists of all of these?

Aims and Methodology

This report aims to provide a brief overview of existing technical methods for digital preservation of open access (OA) monographs, and offer some possible avenues for development. As the report is based on work package activities from 2020, further documentation of work package activities can be expected as these progress, including case studies and good practice guidance.

This report begins with a section detailing current practice in OA publishing, drawn from a series of semi-structured interviews of approximately 30 minutes conducted on Microsoft Teams in September and October 2020. The same interview questions were also supplied to several participants via email and via Online Surveys (formerly BOS). Though only a small set of responses were received, these have been incorporated into the findings. Opportunity exists for further discussions with publishers to enrich and advance the current findings. A wider analysis of the documentation pertaining to digital preservation at OA university presses and publishers was conducted during the same period, though documentation is limited.

Additionally, our first workshop took place on 16 September 2020, run jointly with the Digital Preservation Coalition. This workshop brought together COPIM teammates and experts in digital preservation, which included the following:

  • Senior member, Archiving body (Participant A)
  • Department head, National library (Participant B)
  • Digital conservationist, National library (Participant C)
  • Senior member, Data archive (Participant D)
  • Senior member, Preservation archive (Participant E)
  • Scientist, National laboratory (Participant F)
  • Department head, National library (Participant G)
  • Senior member, Community of practice organisation (Participant H)
  • Senior technical officer, University library (Participant I)

These discussions feed into the points in section 3, as well as the concluding thoughts and summary of future work at the end of this report.

Community-led Open Publishing Infrastructures for Monographs (COPIM) is supported by the Research England Development (RED) Fund, and Arcadia—a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin.
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