Beyond Open Access: (re)use, impact and the ethos of openness in digital editing

Anna-Maria Sichani

Research output: Chapter in book/volumeContribution to conference proceedingsScientificpeer-review


In recent years, concepts such as Open Access, Open Data, Open Source and other open scholarship practices have exerted an increasingly prevalent influence on the digital information environment in which scholarly content is created and disseminated. Originating from academics and libraries calling for “free immediate access to, and unrestricted reuse” (PLOS, n.d.) of scholarly research, and strategically reinforced by the rhetoric of Open Definition – celebrating content that is “freely used, modified, and shared with anyone for any purpose” (Open Definition, n.d.) –, open access agenda currently starts to inform also the practice of many cultural and heritage institutions on opening up access to their digitised primary content through the OpenGlam initiative (Terras 2015). Notions of value, impact, open access and sustainability remain entwined within this virtuous cycle of open content and data, especially in the Humanities (Suber 2012; Eve 2014). Initiatives ranging from mapping the effect of Open Access on citation impact within academia (Opcit) to funding agencies calling on projects to demonstrate the impact of their openly available content in order “to quantify the value of the investment on their creation” (Hughes 2012, 2), manifest an ever-growing research interest in the (re)use and impact assessment of open digital content (Tanner 2012), foregrounding scholarly endeavours that fortify the creation of knowledge and its communication beyond open access.
Digital scholarly editing has long established itself as a field constantly engaged in the perpetual renewal of models geared towards critically remediating and communicating texts and documents. Today, it attempts to situate these concepts and practices within a flourishing culture of open digital content and scholarship. Though the number of publicly accessible digital editions remains on the increase, limitations in adopting an Open Access agenda in digital editing persist. Aside from legal, economic, or administrative reasons behind licensing complications, current discussions conclude that the “page paradigm” (Sahle 2008; Pierazzo 2015) remains a crucial hindrance; its inheritance is still so strong in our scholarly culture that we remain “zoned to print” (Sutherland 2009, 20), thus tending to create and use digital editions as end products handed over to the user “to be seen and not touched” (Shillingsburg 2010; Dahlström 2011, 103).
On what level and for what reasons are digital editing projects offering not only the right to access but also to (re)use, integrate and remodule their underlying data (high-resolution digital facsimiles, rich metadata, transcription and XML encodings, scripts, style sheets etc.) into new scholarship? How can traces of (re)use and the impact of a digital editing project be used to celebrate Open Access while also ensuring scholarly value and its sustainability? This paper will critically engage with digital editing and Open Access through the lens of scholarly impact and value creation, by mapping the current practices employed, conducting an impact assessment of exemplary digital editing projects through quantitative approaches (log analysis, webometrics) and finally discussing benefits and models for adopting an Open Access ethos in digital editing.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAdvances in Digital Scholarly Editing
Subtitle of host publicationPapers presented at the DiXiT conferences in The Hague, Cologne, and Antwerp
Publication statusPublished - 17 Mar 2016


  • Digital editing, textual process, dissemination of literary heritage, digital textuality and culture, modular applications
  • Open Access
  • impact
  • Digital Editions


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