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Collective Development Fund Grant Programme: Scoping Update

An update on the scoping work the OBC team has been doing, to feed into the final assessment criteria and management procedures for the soon to be launched Collective Development Fund grant programme

Published onMar 18, 2024
Collective Development Fund Grant Programme: Scoping Update
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To support the launch of our first Call for Applications to our Collective Development Fund (CDF), the Open Book Collective (OBC) has in recent months been undertaking consultation with colleagues in the open access (OA) book publishing landscape, to inform the finalisation of the programme’s assessment and grant management procedures. This has involved consultation both with colleagues and partners involved in Copim’s Open Book Futures project and with wider stakeholders.  

In this update, we provide an overview of some of this work. This includes reporting on the results of a survey, which was available in both English and Spanish, in keeping with our commitment to bibliodiversity, as well as conversations that took place at two online workshops. The first of these workshops took place on the November 29th 2023, focusing on obtaining input from open publishing infrastructure and service providers, with a second on January 22nd 2024, focusing on open access publishers. We are extremely grateful to everyone who participated in this process: your input has helped us shape the CDF to better meet the needs of the OA books communities we serve.    

Feedback from workshop participants 

In the workshops, we asked delegates to give us a brief introduction to their projects, and some of the barriers and challenges their work has faced. As expected, finances were a barrier for many projects and the communities they work with.  

Some of the delegates had experience with issuing and/or receiving grant funding, which led to detailed discussions about the place of administration, reporting and bureaucracy that can be associated with funded projects. Many participants argued for reporting and administrative procedures that were as light touch as possible, especially for smaller grants. In this vein, we discussed the role that alternative reporting mechanisms (e.g. periodic video calls) could play in the CDF (or indeed no reporting at all for smaller grants, an approach advocated for by one colleague). Other barriers our partners have experienced included the fragmentation of different OA initiatives, the neglect of OA publishing in languages other than English, and the difficulty of persuading stakeholders that a ‘free’ product such as an OA book needs to be funded somehow.  

We asked what sort of projects and initiatives should be eligible for funding by the CDF. The consensus was that the fund should be open to applications from a wide range of potential participants in the global OA publishing ecosystem, and open to both OBC members and the wider community. There was also broad agreement that applicants should be from organisations that are not-for-profit.  

There was a certain amount of disagreement over how mature initiatives should be in order to be eligible. Some colleagues suggested the OBC should fund applicants that look likely to deliver on their project aims, which would suggest a track record of accomplishment. But others argued for greater flexibility, given that requiring too much maturity would disadvantage initiatives in many Lower and Middle Income countries, and cut against the OBC’s core values of bibliodiversity and equity.  

There was also a range of responses to the question of how best to divide up the funding the OBC has to offer (alongside an acknowledgement that there is no simple answer to this question). A majority of respondents suggested that a larger number of smaller grants was preferable, arguing that this both would open up the CDF to a wider range of potential awardees as well as supporting OBC’s aim to promote (biblio)diversity in OA publishing. That said, it was noted that there is a point at which the amount of funding is too small to be useful or worth the administrative burden of applying. This administrative burden can be a significant barrier to potential applicants. A different perspective was provided by one colleague, who suggested that it if the goal was to achieve maximum impact from the grant programme, then it could be that it would be better to offer larger grants, even if this meant that such grants were more likely suit established applicants in, for example, the US and Europe.

We also asked how the call could best reach its intended stakeholders. Workshop participants strongly advocated translating the call into languages other than English, to open up CDF calls to stakeholders in diverse communities. Colleagues argued that calls should be available in English and Spanish at a minimum.   

Feedback from survey participants 

In total we received 13 survey responses, including 12 responses to the English version of our survey and 1 response to our Spanish survey. While this is a relatively small number of respondents, it nonetheless provides some additional insight, including from a more globally diverse range of respondents than attended our workshops. Respondents were based in the UK, US, New Zealand, Colombia India, Belgium and Mexico and included publishers, infrastructure providers, college and university faculty, and a representative from a public funding organization.  

As with workshop participants, we asked survey respondents to tell us about some of the challenges they face in their work with/as OA initiatives. Common themes included funding constraints, a lack of interoperability between OA infrastructures, and a lack of expertise and understanding of OA amongst both academics and university management.  

We also collected views on how the OBC should distribute funding via the CDF. We asked respondents to let us know how they would distribute a hypothetical total initial funding pool of £100,000, with five different options to choose between. This included using the funds to allocate two large £50,000 grants, two larger £30,000 grants and four smaller £10,000 grants, and via either five £20,000 grants or ten £10,000 grants.  

As the chart below shows, amongst this particular sample, there are a diversity of views on the best way that the OBC can use its funds. However, as with the workshops, there is a clear preference for using the funding to distribute a larger number of grants of a smaller size. Other suggestions included a larger number of grants of a yet smaller size, or alternative combinations of larger and smaller grants.   

2 x £50,000: 1; 2 x £30,000 + 4 x £10,000: 1; 5 x £20,000: 2; 10 x £10,000: 3; Other: 4

Survey respondents’ views on how CDF funds should be distributed

When asked to detail the kinds of work that larger grants could support, respondents pointed to projects designed to begin to achieve longer term transformations in their work — for example book series running across years, developing and launching a new website, new publishing technologies designed with OA presses in mind (e.g. alternatives to Print-on-Demand solutions controlled by large corporates, a new sector wide advocacy/data gathering group), as well as delivering project match funding.  

When asked what smaller grants could support, respondents presented options including scaling existing work (e.g. at a university press), implementing an existing OA publishing technology (e.g. production workflow management tools), filling funding gaps, and developing new brand identities.  

A further area where survey respondents added helpful suggestions concerned considerations the OBC and/or reviewers should bear in mind when assessing applications to the CDF. For example, one respondent suggested that not just country of origin but also institutional context should be borne in mind, given persistent inequalities within national contexts, even in the Global North. More than one respondent suggested that benefits across the sector as a whole, and not just to the applicant organisation, should be included as a criterion.  

Conclusions and next steps 

The Open Book Collective’s first Call for Applications to its Collective Development Fund will open April 2024, in order to begin allocating grants totalling around £45,000. In this call, to be published in the OBC Information Hubm we will confirm the final grant assessment and grant management procedures for the CDF, taking into account the feedback received in this round of scoping. A second call will be issued in 2025, for further grants again totalling around £45,000. Anyone interested in applying should monitor the Information Hub and our social media streams for further details.


We would like to thank all those who have assisted us in this scoping work. This includes, in our workshops, representatives from the following organisations and initiatives: African Minds, African Platform for Open Scholarship/University of Cape Town Libraries, Digital Preservation Coalition, Directory of Open Access Books/OAPEN, Knowledge Futures, Invest in Open Infrastructure, meson press, Language Science Press, Open Access Books Network, OpenEdition/OPERAS, Opening the Future, Open Book Publishers, Public Knowledge Project, punctum books, SPARC Europe, University of London Press, University of Westminster Press, White Horse Press.

Many thanks also to our survey respondents, including the following who chose to be recognised in our research outputs: Rupert Gatti (Thoth, Open Book Publishers), Jefferson Pooley (, History of Media Studies, MediArXiv, Knowledge Futures, ScholarLed), Elsa Herminia Quezada Rodríguez (Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana), James L. Savage (Southern Institute of Technology), Andy Ware (UCL Press, Cambridge University Press & Assessment).

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