Curtin University researchers will help create a new international data trust to improve the measurement and analysis of open-access (OA) books, which will be delivered through a US$1.2 million (AUD$1.75 million) project funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The trust is believed to be the first of its’ kind in the world for scholarly publishing, enabling universities to share and analyse data within a specialised information bank that will allow member organisations to share data while retaining trust among members.

Professor Cameron Neylon and Associate Professor Lucy Montgomery from the Curtin Open Knowledge Initiative project will lead Curtin’s team for the two-year initiative, which will be delivered in partnership with the University of North Texas, the University of Michigan, the Educopia Institute and the Book Industry Study Group (BISG).

Professor Montgomery said the project involved the development of a system for sharing data about the usage of OA monographs – scholarly books that are free to read online and are distributed without licensing restrictions.

“Researchers don’t just create knowledge to share between each other – we want to know how people in communities around the world are reading and using the information and insights available to them through open access books,” Professor Montgomery said.

“Books have been relatively slow to develop as open access resources, compared to other forms of academic publishing, and there have been few ways to measure their extent and impact.

“This project will develop a world leading repository of data about open access monographs. Publishers and platforms have been cautious about sharing their data on these books in the past, but this online bank of information will be administered by members and will operate in an environment of trust.”

Professor Neylon said the new information repository would open up new opportunities for analysis.

“The data trust will ensure responsible use of metrics related to ebooks, and will enable us to understand how specialist scholarly books are being accessed and used,” Professor Neylon said.

“We want to understand who is reading the books, where those people are from, and what impact these books are having by being open access.

“This is a great opportunity to develop a new window into the way we share knowledge around the world – way beyond what is currently being achieved by counting citations, which can be a very misleading measure of influence and impact.”

In an effort to be transparent and inclusive about decision-making, the project team is seeking individuals to serve on its advisory board. Further information about the project can be found here.