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A Focus on Open Access Publishing with DRI

With Ruth Hegarty, of The Royal Irish Academy’s publishing house

Ruth Hegarty, Managing Editor of the Royal Irish Academy’s publishing house, joined us for our monthly member’s coffee morning, to speak about the processes involved in making RIA publications open access. In this blog, we share some of these insights, along with a focus on some of the RIA’s open access publications on DRI.

Back in 2018, to mark the 50th Anniversary of the Knowth Excavations, the Royal Irish Academy published its six books on the excavations on DRI. Knowth is the biggest of the passage tombs discovered so far – bigger than Newgrange – and boasts the largest collection of megalithic art. It is older than the Egyptian pyramids and older than Stonehenge. The aim of publishing these volumes open access was to ‘spark new research on Knowth and to help those researching the newly discovered sites in the UNESCO World Heritage site of Brú na Bóinne.’

Joining us for our member’s coffee morning three years later, Ruth Hegarty revealed that this aim was certainly achieved. The open access endeavour raised the profile of this invaluable research, boosting access to the volumes, and receiving some welcome media coverage. Ruth pointed out that this was a ‘legacy open access project’, and so involved a number of challenges. The first was creating a digital object to publish on the Repository. The volumes first had to be scanned, and then there was the question of which licence to select for the materials (ultimately, a CC BY-NC-ND licence was chosen). ‘You have to think carefully about each metadata field when you are doing this for the first time’, Ruth explained. This hard work clearly paid off, though, and next year the final volume showcasing the megalithic art will be published on DRI –  watch this space!

The ideal circumstance in which to begin an open access project is when the publication has been envisioned as open access from the outset. Unearthed: impacts of the Tellus surveys of the north of Ireland presents the findings of the largest collaborative cross-border programme of geoscience surveys ever undertaken on the island of Ireland. It has been digitally preserved and is available to browse and download on DRI, in addition to being available open access via JSTOR. Funding was built in for open access publishing from the moment that the publication was planned. As a result of this planning process, the publication has been given a more open licence than the Knowth excavations; the Tellus Surveys has a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 licence. This permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original authors and source are credited. Unlike the Knowth excavations, which had to be scanned, laboriously, and converted into a single digital document, the born-digital Tellus Surveys could be ingested into the Repository on a chapter-by-chapter basis. As a result of each chapter being given its own metadata (title; authors; subjects etc), there is improved discoverability – i.e. researchers are more likely to find and cite exactly what they are looking for, in the relevant chapter.

We would like to thank Ruth Hegarty for shedding further light on both the practical challenges and benefits of open access publishing for our members and DRI staff. We were particularly thrilled to hear about how publishing open access on DRI, as well as on other platforms, has given the RIA a valuable opportunity to widen engagement with such significant research relating to Irish archaeology and natural history. Publishing with DRI is part of a broader open access strategy for the RIA, which also includes a 2021-2023 Read and Publish agreement with IReL, the Irish e-resources licensing consortium for leading higher education institutions in Ireland.


Our Virtual Coffee Mornings are a forum where DRI Members can start a conversation about digital preservation topics, challenges, or projects in a relaxed environment. We welcome all members to join us for these meetings, which are advertised in advance by the DRI team. To find out more about DRI’s membership model, visit our Membership page. Watch this space for future blog posts on the topics shared in our Coffee Mornings!

[Image]: Royal Irish Academy. (2016) Unearthed: impacts of the Tellus surveys of the north of Ireland, Digital Repository of Ireland [Distributor], Royal Irish Academy [Depositing Institution], https://doi.org/10.7486/DRI.7m01r152c