Open access in social sciences and humanities: a librarian perspective from the Czech Republic

Valentyna Drtinova, OA specialist at Charles University, tells us how OA works at her institution

Open access is really important when authors want to be known internationally, and they want collaborations from abroad. For this, they know they need to publish open access with a major publisher.

– Valentyna Drtinova
Open access in SSH. A viewpoint from the Czech Republic. Circular image depicts the rooftops of the city of Prague, Czech Republic. Image has a pale purple border outline.

We interviewed Valentyna Drtinova, open access (OA) specialist, from Charles University, Prague (pictured above), the Czech Republic.

Can you tell us about SSH at Charles University and your role?

  • We are a large university with 17 faculties of which 7 are social sciences and humanities. We are a more traditional, old university so we don’t concentrate very much on technical subjects but a broad range of academic ones.

    I work in the central library dealing with open access support in the open science centre. As part of my role, I manage tokens for publishing open access through transformative deals.

    It’s a challenge to co-ordinate everything as we have a lot of different faculties with different expectations and priorities, including five medical faculties. So, we have a lot to take into account when we negotiate deals or transformative agreements. Sometimes faculties also want to be as independent as they can. Fortunately, Charles University has faculty open access coordinators, so each faculty has its own person who promotes and manages the open access agenda and open science in general which is a big help.

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How have transformative agreements helped SSH publishing at your university?

  • Before these agreements, authors in these fields didn’t really have an opportunity to publish open access as they didn’t have the finance. So, it’s a new opportunity for the social sciences and humanities.

    In the Czech Republic, we have a lot of university publishers who don’t have any APC’s. So, in many faculties, it’s normal for researchers to write an article and then send it to their own faculty publishers. This doesn’t provide them with international discoverability but is does fulfil their funding requirement to publish a certain number of articles.

    When we signed our first transformative agreements, open access wasn’t widely known. Nobody really knew that there was an opportunity to access funds to publish and they were quite sceptical about it. Often, I had to do outreach and ask people if they would like funding to publish their work open access. When they found out there was funding, they were super grateful and thankful.

Once researchers have published OA, do they see the benefits?

  • Certainly. When they publish another article, the researchers come back and ask if it’s still possible to be funded to publish open access again. Having done it once they really know the advantages and they have seen that the citations were higher than from the non-open access articles. So, once they have published in an open access regime for the first time, they really understand why we sign these agreements and take advantage of them.

    Open access is really important when authors want to be known internationally, and they want collaborations from abroad. For this they know they need to publish open access with a major publisher, rather than with a small university publisher here in the Czech Republic.

      What are transformative OA agreements?

      Transformative agreements are made between libraries and publishers in order to cut the cost of article publishing charges (APCs) for researchers. The agreements allow open access to a range of research as well as allowing researchers to continue reading subscription content.

      Find out more…

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      What is your institution doing to promote cross-disciplinary projects?

      • There are new initiatives to support this. For example, one project at the university is that a condition of green-lighting some research is it has to be done under more than one faculty – to make it more interdisciplinary. That started in January, so it’s still very new.

        I know from conferences abroad that lots of people are interested in cross-disciplinary work at the moment, but I would say we are not quite as up to date in the Czech Republic. The trend for cross-disciplinary has yet to take off here. However, there are a lot of ways in which informal cross-disciplinary work takes place. For instance, sometimes researchers move from and take with them all the contacts and knowledge from one faculty to another. So, the cross-disciplinary work and thinking takes place between the researchers informally rather than in response to a major initiative.

        What I would say as well, in terms of publication, is that in the social sciences and humanities there’s much more willingness to collaborate than in some other subjects. Researchers work closely together, even if they don’t get any credit for that. There is a lot of exchange and researchers are more open to collaboration.

        In the natural science subjects, articles will have a much longer list of authors, but that doesn’t mean the social sciences researchers aren’t collaborating. It just means it doesn’t always go onto the publication record. It’s more informal. But researchers will often talk to me about how they have received help and advice from their colleagues, so we know there is a lot of collaboration and support among them. I think especially in social sciences and humanities, researchers are really generous with their knowledge.