Developing open research options for the social sciences and humanities

Working towards a fair, open environment for researchers in different fields

In September 2021, Taylor & Francis hosted a panel event that brought together representatives from consortia, institutions, learned societies and publishers. They exchanged views on an inclusive and researcher-centered open access approach.

The event explored ways to encourage collaboration and innovation to develop diverse open access options for researchers in different subject areas, in particular the social sciences and humanities.

In this blog post, we discuss some of the highlights from our university and consortium panelists – Jeroen Sondervan, from Utrecht University and Jack Hyland, Manager of the IReL consortium.

Open research initiatives

Improving open research options for the social sciences and humanities is challenging. Often there is less funding, and sometimes lower awareness, than there is in science, technology, and medical subjects. Our panelists discussed some of the initiatives that are helping to change this.

New ways of making open research options equally available

  • Last year in the Netherlands a national funded platform was set up to foster very niche small journals which have problems converting to an open access model. There are lots of other examples emerging as well, Finland and in Denmark have national coordinated platforms for humanities and social sciences. Sweden just launched such a platform based in open-source software.

    This is an example of collective action and taking responsibility for these kinds of journals. All the platforms are focusing on non-article publishing charge (APC) models. Some of the journals will have an APC or a very low APC, but all the platforms are based on the specific principles of open scholarship.” Jeroen Sondervan

  • Everyone from large to small publishers, governments, institutions, consortia, all agree that open access to publicly funded research is a good thing. The next step for us is to agree how to achieve that.

    Diamond open access journals represent a vast range of relatively small journals serving a wide variety of communities. There is no reason why commercial operators, large and small, can’t thrive in this area and can’t be part of this work.

    The challenge here is that the onus for this inclusivity, and for this equality of access, rests with the institutions, the funders, the consortia. There must be a willingness to share the cost, and to be able to pay towards initiatives and journals where the institution or funder may not always be directly benefiting. If we cannot realize such cost sharing, then we must resort to less inclusive models such as APCs (article publishing charges).” Jack Hyland

    Building open science communities

    • The Utrecht Open Science Community is a bottom-up, early career researcher-driven project, collaborating and organizing small events about specific topics like reproducibility, how to publish open access, or how to share data. These small events address very practical questions. The Community also organize faculty events with the dean, research directors, and early career researchers. The talk about how to engage with open science practices in the broadest sense possible.

      The Utrecht Open Science Community made an open science toolkit on how to start your own institutional open science community. Now all research universities in the Netherlands have this bottom-up open science community at the institution.” Jeoroen Sondervan

    Facilitating discussion with digital humanities and interdisciplinary research

    • Every faculty has its own open science community ambassador who have been working together for a few years now, holding events where everyone is welcome. This ignites discussions between the different disciplines. For instance, what is data within the humanities? If you ask this question in a more science-oriented event, you immediately get engaging discussion.

      We also recently opened the ‘Living Lab’ to facilitate teaching in digital humanities. This is a physical working space where researchers, data managers, data stewards, or even experts like me, can engage with the digital humanities, but it’s open for more than just the humanities. It’s a cross-fertilization between all the experts and researchers, so they have a space to discuss, learn, and move forward.” Jeroen Sondervan

    Achieving inclusivity and equity through Read & Publish agreements

      • We manage 19 transformative agreements (TAs), and they have made a big difference in expanding the open access options for researchers across all disciplines in our member institutions. With publishers who are strong in the humanities and social sciences, like Taylor & Francis, we’ve seen that a lot of the use of this agreement is by our authors in these subjects. Most of the criticism we received on our TAs was from other institutions who want to be part of the deals, and we’re working on that.

        There are promising signs that the transformative model can become more inclusive globally across different types of institutions. Ongoing work is being done by the Electronic Information for Libraries consortium (EIFL). They’ve been arranging low or no cost agreements for low-income countries.

        Part of the criticism for transformative agreements is that they’re a Northern European phenomenon for well-funded institutions, but they can work across a wide variety of institutions in different countries with the cooperation of publishers.

        As the IReL consortium is in the process of expanding into other institutions nationally, we’re working with publishers to achieve a balance that includes low publishing institutions. Transformative agreements, with caveats, are beneficial to nearly all actors. The institutions that are paying the most are the research-intensive institutions. They were pushing for this model in the first place. All other institutions and their authors will be paying less in the long run.” Jack Hyland

      Transformative open access agreements

      Libraries and publishers make transformative open access (OA) agreements so that authors don’t need to pay article publishing charges (APCs) to make the final version of their articles open access. Through these partnerships (which are also sometimes called ‘read & publish’ agreements), an increasing proportion of library spend supports open access publishing services, while enabling their users to continue reading subscription content.

      Find out more

        More about the speakers

        Head shot of Jack Hyland
        Jack Hyland

        Jack Hyland, IReL Manager

        Jack has been manager of IReL, the Irish e-resources consortium based in Maynooth University, since 2017. Before this, he has worked in a variety of roles in Irish university libraries, with interests in scholarly publishing and open access (OA), intellectual property and online learning. Jack is on the editorial board of the DBS Business Review and has recently co-authored an article in UKSG Insights proposing a novel model for OA funding (

        Head shot of Jeroen Sondervan
        Jeroen Sondervan

        Jeroen Sondervan, Open Access Publishing Consultant, Utrecht University

        Jeroen has over 14 years of experience working in scholarly publishing. He is a member of the Knowledge Exchange Open Access Group, the Dutch library consortium OA working group and editor of the national platform

        Visit the Taylor & Francis Open Research site to find out more about the latest initiatives to help you choose open