Grant supports Cornell University Press open-access effort

A new grant to Cornell University Press (CUP) from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) will support scholarly communication through open-access publishing in collaboration with Cornell University Library.

The $103,336 economic stabilization grant will fund a new project, Open Access in a Closed World. Recognizing the need to make new scholarship available to students and faculty amid a global health crisis, the project will support teaching, learning and knowledge discovery, and create a repository of new and out-of-print titles available to scholars and readers worldwide.

Cornell University Press books

Cornell University Press/Provided

A sample of Cornell University Press books available digitally as open-access titles.

The NEH funding, awarded via the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, was one of 10 grants totaling $1 million given to not-for-profit university presses to offset the impact of the coronavirus on scholarly publishing.

The shift to online learning during the pandemic made clear “the critical importance of easily accessible, carefully vetted and peer-reviewed open-access books in the humanities and humanistic social sciences,” according to CUP’s proposal.

Open Access in a Closed World (OACW) will help the press upgrade and enhance an open-access scholarly monograph program; and create a new permanent repository for its open-access content using Cornell University Library’s digital infrastructure.

The grant will allow CUP to retain essential staff during the pandemic, which has caused a decline in sales and revenue from retail and online outlets. It will also allow the press to promote its open-access content more effectively to students, scholars and the general public.

With the new open-access structure in place, CUP will retroactively update its existing catalogue of more than 150 open-access titles and transition them to the Cornell library as digital holdings, creating a permanent, easily accessible repository for scholars, students and readers around the world.

“We are very grateful to the NEH for supporting Cornell University Press’s longstanding commitment to making high-quality research as widely available as possible,” said Gerald Beasley, the Carl A. Kroch University Librarian.

The OACW project also incorporates the development of new workflows for open-access content and creating metadata to aid in its discoverability and usability; and reporting on open-access usage to inform future publishing decisions and share with authors for their tenure and promotion files.

Earlier this year, CUP joined other university presses in making all scholarly content available for free on the Project MUSE platform to users worldwide through the end of June. As part of OACW, usage data from that collaboration will help the press identify up to 20 forthcoming humanities and social sciences titles, to be made available as open-access e-books and online resources for teaching and research.

“Cornell University Press is honored to be among a select group of university presses to be awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities,” said Jane Bunker, director of Cornell University Press. “This grant helps us to continue our collaboration with Cornell University Library on a project to create a new and permanent repository of our books for open-access content while also retaining talented staff members. We thank the NEH for their continued support.”

Editor-in-chief Mahinder Kingra and the press’s senior leadership team conceived of the open access project and shaped the NEH proposal, Bunker said.

The press currently has 5,100 books in print and publishes 190 new books each year, available in print and e-book formats simultaneously. The NEH provides funding support for research and learning to selected institutions and entities through a peer-reviewed proposal process.

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