Open Access Week

Open Access Week: Interview with Manuscript Studies co-editor Nicholas Herman

Welcome to International Open Access Week! This annual week-long event celebrates the broadest possible access to and sharing of scholarly knowledge across the world. Open access (OA) is key to creating pathways for more equitable knowledge sharing across all barriers in order to see and address the inequalities in our societies.

This year’s theme is Community over Commercialization. This year’s theme invites us to consider how certain approaches to open scholarship “prioritize the best interest of the public and the academic community.” Penn Press has a growing number of open access journals, including Observational Studies; the Journal of Disaster Studies; and Pasados: Recovering History, Imagining Latinidad. In this post, we discuss the value of open access with Nicholas Herman, who, with Lynn Ransom, co-edits the Penn Press journal Manuscript Studies, which will convert to an open access model starting in 2024.

Why is Manuscript Studies converting to an Open Access model?

The Penn Libraries in general and the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies in particular have a commitment to making information about cultural heritage collections available to as broad an audience as possible. This commitment covers images and metadata from our fabulous collections of pre-modern manuscripts, of course, but it also must extend to scholarly output, be it in the form of online lectures and digital resources, or, material published in our twice-yearly journal, Manuscript Studies. Eight years after its founding, we feel that the journal is on a solid footing and will only benefit from the greater exposure that Platinum Open Access can bring.

What will going OA mean for your authors and readers?

Increasingly, research that is sponsored by national and international funding agencies requires that any project outputs (i.e. articles and research reports) be made available under Open Access conditions. We want to make sure that authors don’t have to look elsewhere to publish! This makes sense: the results of work done using public money should not be siloed for the exclusive benefit of those who can afford to pay for third-party subscription services. Within the humanities context in which we operate, very few articles submitted to us are accompanied by funding to offset APC (Article Processing Charges). Luckily, at SIMS we are able to cover 100% of the costs and staff time associated with producing the journal: it is part of our scholarly mission. This way, we are able to publish a much wider variety of articles and be of relevance to a much wider readership.

Older back content of Manuscript Studies has been available OA on Penn Libraries’ Scholarly Commons platform. What kind of engagement have you seen as a result?

Our journal is global in scope: recent issues include articles on manuscript traditions from places as diverse as India, Malaysia, Armenia, Mexico, Tunisia, and Japan. Accordingly, the download statistics available to us through Scholarly Commons demonstrate that, when articles become available in OA after the (previous) one-year moving wall, global readership is immense. In fact, downloads from Asia, South America, Africa, and Australia outpace those from Europe and North America. During the Covid-19 pandemic, when current articles on our subscription-based hosting platform were made freely accessible on a temporary basis, we also saw a surge in usage. Such a broad pattern of use is all the more important, as institutions in the global south frequently lack the ability to subscribe to expensive, pay-for-content platforms.

Nicholas Herman is the Lawrence J. Schoenberg Curator at the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies and Medieval Studies Librarian at Penn Libraries. His teaching and research focus on manuscript illumination and its intersection with other media in fifteenth- and early-sixteenth-century Europe.

For more information on the Manuscript Studies journal, please visit the Manuscript Studies official website.