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Open Access Week Interview with Tom Grady

The Copim team talks with Tom Grady about his experience as a Work Package Lead for Copim's Opening the Future.

Published onOct 24, 2023
Open Access Week Interview with Tom Grady
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The Copim team talks with Tom Grady about his experience as a Work Package Lead for Copim’s Opening the Future.

Tell us a little bit about yourself! When did you join the Copim community? How’s your experience been at your position?

My background is in libraries and publishing and I joined Copim after applying for a post under Professor Martin Eve in early 2020. It was right at the start of the first lockdowns and we did the interview on Skype and it all felt very high tech. Since then, of course, we’ve done so much work via webinars and Zoom that it’s the norm and we’ve reached more people worldwide than I think we ever could have hoped. With Martin, I helped launch the Opening the Future revenue model which is enabling non-OA presses to gradually flip their frontlist using an affordable, community-sourced sustainable revenue stream and creating a collection of OA books that are open for the world.

I have loved every minute of working at Copim - enjoying working with some very clever people and running to try and keep up with them. I only met many of them in person for the first time ever this year but we have achieved so much together - I feel like we are a real incubator of innovative ideas in enabling the success of OA books, and are contributing to or leading many of the important and challenging conversations in the OA monograph sector.

 In your opinion, what are the key challenges and drawbacks when commercial interests take precedence in knowledge production, as opposed to prioritizing researchers and the public?

 I remember hearing someone say that Higher Education had taken a wrong turn at some point in its long history when it ‘outsourced’ the means of academic progression and promotion to third parties who are outside the academy. This goes round my head regularly. A commercial third party has to put its own interests (its profits, its shareholder value etc) first - how can they not? So we cannot be surprised when they do this at the expense of the public purse and at the expense of scholars. It seems to me that the answer lies in a patchwork of alternative approaches that includes: no longer signing over millions in library budgets to the big corporations; in ‘giving back the means of production to the workers’; and in the sector supporting/enabling/financing values-led, mission-driven, and non-profit publishing.

How can individuals, institutions, and organizations actively participate in Open Access Week 2023 and contribute to the theme of "Community over Commercialisation" in their local contexts?

Individuals can sign up to a webinar or two in OA Week: ask difficult questions in the chat, make a note of the names of colleagues who are challenging the status quo and get in touch with them later to talk more. Institutions like libraries and universities can look at their own budgets and OA policies and consider how they can use these to more effectively support values-led enterprises over profit-driven companies. Contact other libraries that have made changes already, ask them how they did it, and stop accepting ‘oh well this is just the way things are, this is how the market works’ - it does not have to work like this but it will only change if colleagues are willing to have difficult conversations with their own budget holders and senior administrators. Confront making difficult changes, speak to others that have made changes and work out a way your own institution can stop accepting the current situation: like global energy prices, the costs of commercial academic publishing will only ever go up and, for many, they are already not sustainable, so be the change you want to see. Libraries can choose instead to support models - like OtF, like Thoth, like the OBC - that are opening up scholarship and that still match their collection development policies, and researcher and author needs.

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