The Academic Book of the Future: a major new research project from the Arts & Humanities Research Council and the British Library

The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the British Library are launching a two-year research project which will explore the future of academic books in the context of open access publishing and continuing digital change.

The project will look into implications of open access developments for researchers and readers, including potential for innovation within research process, as well as new opportunities for engagement and dissemination of research.

Researchers are invited to attend an information event at the British Library on 10 February 2014 to find out more about the project. The maximum grant available is £450,000.

The project will be chaired by Anne Jarvis, University Librarian of the University of Cambridge. It will be funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and directed by the AHRC and the British Library.

The changes in the publication of open access academic books are gathering momentum with an emerging number of new models being initiated by the research community, university presses, libraries and publishing companies. However, there has been relatively little work done on understanding the wider context of academic book and how it could evolve in the contemporary research landscape.

This project will address a need to broaden our knowledge of the key changes emerging in the research process, in areas such as:

  • academic authors’ engagement with technology platforms
  • changes in formats of outputs being produced
  • collaboration practices in digital environment
  • use of social networking tools before and after publication
  • quality and value systems and practices (peer review, citation, nature of editorial input)
  • implications for the global research ecosystem

The project will consider not just traditional forms of academic book such as the monograph, but will also look at forms such as critical editions and edited collections, and will include video and audio outputs arising from creative and performing arts research, as well as more traditional text-based research and text-based output in the humanities disciplines.

Anne Jarvis, University Librarian of the University of Cambridge said: “As opportunities to publish open access academic books increase, research libraries face a range of complex, new considerations related to selection, acquisition, discovery and preservation of digital academic books. In order to find the most successful and sustainable solutions, we will need to be able to support the ways in which researchers might take advantage of digital environment in advancing research methods, and in exposing, sharing and connecting knowledge in the future. This project will provide an opportunity to investigate this dynamic environment in order to inform changes taking place in all parts of scholarly communication chain.”

Rick Rylance, Chief Executive of the AHRC said: “The book will remain a cornerstone of the way academics in the arts and humanities communicate for years to come. But what will the book of the future become? This project will enable us to assess the potential of new technologies and modes of access and their effects on how books will be written, used, stored and distributed. What will the books of the future look and feel like in both print and digital forms? How will rights will be structured? How will wide and open access be best enabled? What possibilities are offered for new types of scholarship? These are exciting questions and I'm delighted we can pursue them in collaboration with the British Library."

Roly Keating, Chief Executive of the British Library said: “Collaboration with the research community is essential for us to understand the future of academic publications and the way in which research will be produced and disseminated in the future. The project will represent a unique opportunity for the British Library to work closely with an expert research team to help us advance our thinking about innovative developments as we continue to move from physical to digital academic book publication models.”

This project will complement the current work led by the Higher Education Council for England (HEFCE) that will draw together a body of evidence concerning monographs and open access publishing. The Academic Book of the Future will provide an opportunity for longer-term research focusing on the changing nature of the research process in the digital environment and its impact on academic books.

Notes to Editors:

Further information about the event on 10th February is on the AHRC website.

Full project details are on the AHRC website.

For more information contact:


Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC): Each year the AHRC provides approximately £102 million from the Government to support research and postgraduate study in the arts and humanities, from languages and law, archaeology and English literature to design and creative and performing arts. In any one year, the AHRC makes approximately 700 research awards and around 1,350 postgraduate awards. Awards are made after a rigorous peer review process, to ensure that only applications of the highest quality are funded. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK. www.ahrc.ac.uk

The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the world's greatest research libraries. It provides world class information services to the academic, business, research and scientific communities and offers unparalleled access to the world's largest and most comprehensive research collection. The Library's collection has developed over 250 years and exceeds 150 million separate items representing every age of written civilisation and includes books, journals, manuscripts, maps, stamps, music, patents, photographs, newspapers and sound recordings in all written and spoken languages. Up to 10 million people visit the British Library website - www.bl.uk - every year where they can view up to 4 million digitised collection items and over 40 million pages.  

Anne Jarvis is University Librarian at the University of Cambridge. She is responsible for the main University Library, its affiliated libraries, and the Centre for Research in Educational Technology.  Anne is currently an elected member of the Board of Research Libraries UK (RLUK), she chairs the Board of Directors for the Agency for Legal Deposit Libraries and she is a Curator of the University Libraries, University of Oxford.  Anne is a Leading Change (Frye Leadership) Institute Fellow (2000) and a former Vice-President (2005-2007) of Wolfson College, Cambridge.


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