An Interview with Helsinki University Press on joining OASPA

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Helsinki University Press has recently become a member of OASPA in the small professional publisher category, further enriching the growing community of members. To gain more insight into their recent affiliation with OASPA and to learn more about them, we conducted an interview with Anna-Mari Vesterinen, Managing Editor.

Q. Tell us a bit about your organisation and the service it provides – and your role within it.

Helsinki University Press (HUP) is a non-commercial, open-access publisher of high-quality scholarly literature. We publish monographs, edited volumes, and journals. Publication decisions are based on the academic quality of manuscripts, and all publications go through a rigorous peer review process. All our books are available in PDF and print on demand, and the majority are also available in EPUB. Starting in 2023, we are making our PDFs and EPUBs accessible following the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.2.

HUP offers professional publishing services for the academic community and welcomes submissions from researchers all over the world. We pride ourselves on providing researchers with a channel to publish and disseminate their results effectively and fairly. We believe that open access is the best way to reach worldwide audiences, including readers in the Majority World but also those outside academic institutions who may find accessing research behind high paywalls to be a major challenge.

Q. Why did you decide to join OASPA and what do you hope to get out of your OASPA membership?

For a new and expanding publishing house, it is important to engage with the wider open-access community. For us, OASPA is a key organization connecting different actors in the field, and we hope that our membership will be beneficial for us in many ways. It will be particularly helpful to be kept abreast of the latest developments and initiatives in open scholarship, and be able to participate in OASPA activities (meetings, events, discussions, etc.) as full members. We believe that diversity is a key facet of OASPA as it brings deeper understanding to open scholarship from different angles, including those outside of HUP’s current areas of expertise.

Q. What are the short- and medium-term priorities for your organisation in relation to open scholarship? / How is your organization adapting for a future where open-access publishing
is the default?

Ever since HUP was established in 2017, it was clear that the modus operandi of the press would be diamond open access. Since launching our first books in 2020, one of our primary goals has been in making sure that open-access publishing is of top quality, and we are happy that we have kept our standards high from the very beginning. For example, one of our monographs, The Kobane Generation: Kurdish Diaspora Mobilising in France by Mari Toivanen, was awarded the 2022 Alixa Naff Book Prize in Migration Studies. Another monograph, Scraps of Hope in Banda Aceh by Marjaana Jauhola, was awarded an Honourable Mention by the International Political Sociology Section (IPS) of the International Studies Association at their 2022 Best Book Award.

We strongly believe that publishing high-quality research monographs and edited volumes benefits the whole open-access community that desperately seeks solutions for sustainable funding models for academic books.

Q. What do you think are the main challenges for the communication of scholarship generally in the near future?

We find the lack of sustainable funding models for open-access books a major challenge. There seems to be a lot of interest in diamond open access publishing, but funding currently seems to be focused on journals. University library budgets are tied up in big journal deals and/or transformative agreements, and most of the money goes into STEM journals. This creates an imbalance in access to research, with particularly negative effects for the arts, humanities, and social sciences (AHSS) – fields at the core of book publishing. We at HUP believe that AHSS publications should also be made available to a wider readership.

Q. How do you think OASPA can help mitigate those challenges?

As a central organisation and an active network of the open-access community, OASPA can set the standards for high quality and ethical open-access publishing. It also creates a platform for discussing industry best practices and issues that need solving. OASPA can take a leading role in raising awareness of the benefits of open-access publishing and in promoting the development of sustainable business models and policies that support the industry.

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