UC Press, California Digital Library receive grant to improve publication system

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University of California Press and the California Digital Library, or CDL, received a grant of $750,000 earlier this month to develop a Web-based workflow-management system that would improve the publication process of open-access monographs.

The two-year grant — awarded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which supports works in the arts and humanities — is intended to promote the publication of social science monographs, which are detailed written studies of specific subject areas. UC Press and the CDL are developing the system to help decrease the costs and increase the efficiency of the academic publication process.

UC Press is the nonprofit publishing arm of the UC system that publishes primarily peer-reviewed academic work. The CDL is an online publishing platform that publishes works by UC faculty.

“The current book publication system is somewhat anachronistic,” said Catherine Mitchell, director of the Access and Publishing Group of the CDL.

According to Mitchell, who co-authored the grant proposal, these systems need new processes and workflows to attend to the specific needs of digital book publication.

Mitchell said the goal of the program is to have at least a “working system” within two years. The system may then be modified later as users see fit.

When complete, the system will become an open-source software. Mitchell said the new system has the potential to move the entire publication process online, from initial authoring to peer review to publication of the monograph, whether through a publishing platform or an institutional repository.

The new system, Mitchell added, will encourage collaboration among all those involved in the publishing process — authors, editors and publishers — in one online platform.

According to Erich van Rijn, director of publishing operations at UC Press and the other co-author of the grant proposal, the current system does not have one consistent platform, which impedes the ability of authors and editors to collaborate on projects.

“Different publishers currently use different systems, which makes collaboration difficult,” van Rijn said.

Having one consistent system can also reduce publishing costs, said van Rijn, who added that reducing costs is crucial for faculty in the arts and humanities because these faculty generally publish monographs. Monographs are longer in length and more costly to publish than journals, which are usually published in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.

Mitchell added that similar commercial systems already exist but are far too expensive to use for academic purposes.

During this two-year period, both UC Press and the CDL plan to collaborate with other university presses and library publishing units to ensure that the new system will meet a variety of scholarly needs.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation could not be reached for comment regarding its grant.

Contact Natchapol Praditpetchara at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @natchapolp.