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Researchers’ perspectives on the purpose and value of the monograph
04 October 2019
Earlier this year, we collaborated with Cambridge University Press on research that asked how our authors, readers, and researchers see the monograph.
For many years, we’ve heard that the days of the monograph are numbered, that it is inaccessible and old-fashioned, that the world has moved on. And yet we see ever more monographs submitted to publishers and a growing online usage of monograph materials. Most importantly, we see significant and meaningful research communicated through monograph form. We wanted to understand this so that we could better respond to the needs of the academic community.
It made sense for CUP and OUP to work on this together. As the oldest and largest university presses respectively, we have published many thousands of monographs over many decades and they have become a cornerstone of our publishing programmes. If we, as a scholarly community, have reached a point where the monograph is no longer relevant and our authors and readers need something different, we need to know and to adapt.
We focused on Humanities and Social Sciences but opened the survey to respondents of all ages, in all countries, at all points in their academic careers and what we found was that the monograph remains vital to the scholarly ecosystem. The sheer number of responses to our survey speaks to the importance of this topic. But even more impressive was the fact that so many people took the time to offer us their heartfelt opinions, which made it very clear how highly the monograph is regarded. It is a valued part of both the reading and output of Humanities and Social Sciences scholars and is perceived to offer something that a medium such as the journal article does not. We found that the monograph remains the established vehicle for dissemination and debate of new research in Humanities and Social Sciences, alongside journal articles, and represents a ‘gold standard’ for scholarly achievement. And we found that the value of the monograph is not just in its dissemination but in the research process itself – it is an organizing principle in research.
Embedded as university presses are within the scholarly community, we expected to hear much of this. Equally, we were not shocked to hear that while respondents felt that the monograph remains incredibly important, it must evolve to remain relevant to the way academics work in an increasingly digital world. What was important for us at this stage was that, if it evolves successfully, the role of the monograph looks set to continue into the future. Its days may not be numbered but now it falls to us, alongside our authors and readers, to facilitate this evolution and ensure that this important piece of the scholarly jigsaw continues to fit into the future of academia.