In order to make Open Access publishing accessible and affordable to as many researchers as possible, KU Leuven established the KU Leuven Fund for Fair Open Access in January 2018. Not only does the Fund provide financial support for community-owned infrastructures, consortia and advocacy organisations, it also grants funding for books published in immediate and fair Open Access by Leuven University Press. Since 2018 Leuven University Press has published over 30 titles with support of the KU Leuven Fund for Fair Open Access.
This university-funded initiative is a unique non-profit model and makes a substantial contribution in making Gold Open Access publishing a reality. The Fund is committed to support a cost-effective and sustainable implementation of Open Access and to put authors back in charge.
How does the KU Leuven Fund for Fair Open Access work? Regardless of their affiliation, authors can apply for financial support by submitting a manuscript to Leuven University Press. Peer review is standard procedure. Only when the scientific quality and merits of the manuscript have been positively evaluated will the book be published in full Open Access with Leuven University Press. The Open Acces book is made freely available on various platforms and Leuven University Press simultaneously also offers a print version for sale at a reasonable price. Instead of a traditional author-publisher contract, in which the authors cede their rights to the publisher, Leuven University Press offers, in accordance with OA requirements, a Creative Commons licence agreement in which the authors retain the copyright.
In three years time the Fund has proven its viability. Since its foundation, Leuven University Press has published more than 30 titles in Open Access with support from the Fund. This is up to 30% of the total number of titles Leuven University Press publishes annually. About 40% of the applications are submitted by authors who are not affiliated with the KU Leuven. Especially for these external authors, the Fund is an important step towards an Open Access book, as the financial commitment expressed by KU Leuven can greatly help them to obtain additional funding from their own institution.
"Leuven University Press embraces the movement towards Open Access for the full 100%. Being able to share scientific insights with readers worldwide and giving them access to knowledge, unhindered by financial thresholds, is the pinnacle of scientific publishing. Leuven University Press is proud of this growing collection of titles - across all disciplines - available in Open Access. We are most grateful to KU Leuven for structurally supporting this future-oriented path in the Leuven University Press publishing policy", explains Veerle De Laet, director of Leuven University Press.
Koenraad Debackere, former Managing Director of KU Leuven also underlines the importance of the right models for Open Access: "Open Access will offer a boost to scholarly communication and thereby scientific progress. However, in order for Open Access to thrive we need to have the right organisational models in place. Those are developing and Leuven University Press is definitely contributing to this evolution. The old world of traditional academic publishing and the new world of Open Access will eventually amalgamate into a transformative business model where market and community meet."
"Mission-driven academic presses such as Leuven University Press are treasured as professional partners in Open Access publishing", confirms Demmy Verbeke of KU Leuven Libraries, "Open Access publications can help reduce pressure on the budgets of scholarly institutions and their libraries, which has been a growing problem for decades. This will only happen if Open Access publishers are focused on scholarly values rather than on profit margins, working in a cost-effective rather than profit-driven manner."
Studies have shown that Open Access books enjoy greater visibility, have a wider international reach and are used more frequently. The readership data of the Open Access books supported by the Fund confirm these findings.
_____Martin Kohlrausch's monograph 'Brokers of Modernity' was the first Open Access book published with the support of the KU Leuven Fund for Fair Open Access. Since its publication in March 2019 it has been downloaded and viewed more than 15.000 times. "I was hoping for a quick ‘absorption’ of the book. Judging from the very high download numbers my expectations have been outmatched.", states Kohlrausch.
Also Leen d’Haenens, editor of 'Images of Immigrants and Refugees in Western Europe' was surprised by the wide readership. "It even put us in second place of a top 10 of e-books selected by the Brookings Library in Washington to be shared in their wide network, and we saw that the book has already been downloaded a lot.", thus d'Haenens.
KU Leuven and Leuven University Press are confident that the Fund will attract more and more authors and that this unique model is a good example of a successful collaboration for open access publishing.
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