Investigating new business models for including published works in OER

The PublishOER project was completed in December 2012. The final report is available to download in doc (with index), doc (without index) (both aprpoximately 11MB) and pdf (40MB) formats. There is also a 2 page summary document. 

Seeking to develop new ways of complementing the OER resource collections with high quality published content, the project team investigated alternative, flexible ways of raising income while supplementing existing resources with weblogs, reviews, comments and ratings from users, and ways of incorporating published works into OER, ensuring staff and students were operating within best practice, accrediting, attributing and paying (when necessary) for using commercially published material in sharable resources.

Along with policy development and case studies, the project also investigated technical developments to consider how textbook content could be made more discoverable and accessible using XML and ePub formats, while also developing a 'permissions-request' system for academics to be able to request to use particular content (from publishers) via an easy and methodical process.

Computing Science students from various locations in the UK were invited to a Student App Development Day which was held in June (see blog post).  The day focused on veterinary content as it is quite concentrated and could be pulled in from textbooks, flashcards, website links, specialised dictionaries, etc. The six apps developed were deemed 'excellent' and presented to Elsevier senior mangement.

Our joint conference with the Great Writers Inspire project (Oxford) took place in London on 16th October, 2012. You can see details, presentations and recordings of the workshop via this Re-imagining open education, published works and social media link.

The PublishOER project has the potential to build foundations for a new mixed economy incorporating published works in which learners and teachers will benefit from a broader range of high-quality resources, tested in the veterinary sector, ensuring better currency of information in OER and increased personal choice.


  • Elsevier publish 2,000 journals and 20,000 books  - many of them text books.
  • Rightscom have links to all publishers and they have expertise in trading and protection of intellectual property rights and digital content.  They recently undertook research on how to create an automated 21st century rights environment for digital resources.
  • The Royal Veterinary College will provide an opportunity to conduct a needs-assessment of both academic and student OER users. Work will be coordinated within the RVC (and also Nottingham vet school) by ‘student researchers’ employed on a retainer basis to organise focus groups, liaise with academics, promote specific resources to target audiences and feedback to the project. This feedback and the evaluation of the work will inform investigations in other subject areas.

Aims and objectives:

The PublishOER collaboration would investigate new publishing models by identifying and testing possible business prototypes for embedding third party rights in OER and documenting those approaches providing maximum benefits to all parties. It planned to:

  • Build on existing expertise and current thinking in rights management and embedding published works in OER and recommend ways forward for the sector (next steps);
  • Explore and document new business models to enable sustainable release of OER by conceptualising, planning, piloting and testing different approaches to embedding third party rights;
  • Test the approaches in reality or hypothetically with staff and students who generate/use OER;
  • Explore discovery of and payment for published works embedded in OER in support of new business models especially in the context of veterinary medicine;
  • ‘Release and collect’ (make discoverable) and enhance a significant amount of OER;
  • Consider how web 2.0 rating systems positively/negatively impact on OER with embedded rights.

The project proposal is available to download in .doc and .pdf formats. The interim report is available here.


Final report and recommendations

Our final report is in progress however our DRAFT recommendations are :

  • Implement and disseminate policy principles for use of third party published works in OER;
  • Undertake tests of embedding third party works in collaboration with publishers to include a wider range of disciplines and formats;
  • Exemplars are developed to illustrate embedding published works in OER;
  • Publishers review sales of existing works with a view to identifying any with low volume sales but that were still academically current (infrequent in some disciplines such as health and computing) that could be used as a basis for testing with OER;
  • Publishers consider including unique identification of elements of published works (anticipating a scan-and-use future), such as QR codes for interfacing with APIs;
  • Authors consider making parts or sections of their creative works permanently available as OER;
  • Publishers consider addressing the potential use of works in OER with authors at the time of contracting book content (licence it at the point of commissioning);
  • Consider licensing structures for new resources rather than trying to retrofit OER agreements for resources already in existence;
  • Permissions-request technologies are piloted with available published content, such as current open access journal content, and broadened to include subjects other than veterinary medicine;
  • That the JISC Collections CASPER and RePRODUCE tools are updated to include the policy findings (JISC Collections 2010a; 2010b);
  • Develop technology to ‘stamp’ resources with personal licences for use in OER and elsewhere:
  • Recording permission requests;
  • Recording permission requests;
  • Providing instant decisions on applications;
  • Mine metadata and paradata arising from use in OER for audit and other purposes.
  • Consider the use of MOOCs or (tiny)OOCs with, for example, widening participation, to explore shared (HE-publisher) provision for new audiences;
  • Undertake staff development as part of digital literacies programmes in HE;
  • Consider the implications that mash-up resources may be too complex to not only design but also to maintain in the future;
  • A combination of the RightsLink CCC (discussed in WP5: Policy, licences and procedures on page 21 above) and Clinical Key/ExpertConsult could be a way forward for Elsevier to develop a permissions system to lower transaction costs, but they would still have the burden of adding metadata about the licence terms of elements of a published work;
  • Contact is made with the Digital Copyright Exchange with a view to sharing outcomes from the project;
  • Information and copyright education;
  • Registries of rights;
  • A marketplace for rights - licensing solutions;
  • Help with the orphan works problem.
  • HEFCE and the JISC should be briefed about the outcomes of the project with a view to taking forward pilot systems as demonstrators;
  • Continue to work closely HE with publishers to increase the contact with end users thus further strengthen relationships between HE and private sector;
  • The publishers networks (such as the STM, PSP and Publishers Associations); JISC ‘PALS’ and other organisations such as LACA (2012) should be approached with a view to widening participation in the pilot/demonstrator work;
  • The CLA should be consulted about embedding published works in OER as part of the dissemination activities.

Technical investigation details are available here.


For further information, please contact

OER phase 3 blog

OER online technical workshop from PublishOER, RIDLR and SupOERGlue

Posted: 2012 December 07 | Updated: 2012 December 07
Lindsay Wood

Details of this upcoming technical workshop have been posted here: The ...

read post

Integrating Open Tapestry with DLMs

Posted: 2012 October 19 | Updated: 2012 October 19
John Peterson

Open Tapestry supports LTI (Learning Tools Interoperability) integration which allows us to seamlessly link the Dynamic Learning Maps (DLM) system ...

read post

Dynamic Learning Maps – new features

Posted: 2012 October 19 | Updated: 2012 October 19
James Outterside

Over the course of PublishOER, RIDLR and SupOERGlue projects we have been busy adding several new features to Dynamic Learning ...

read post

Creating resource mashups via Dynamic Learning Maps

Posted: 2012 October 19 | Updated: 2012 October 19
James Outterside

We are now in the final phase of our JISC-funded PublishOER and OER Rapid Innovation projects (RIDLR and SupOERGlue). I ...

read post

Open Content, APIs and LTI (repost from Open Tapestry blog)

Posted: 2012 October 11 | Updated: 2012 October 15
Lindsay Wood

Justin Ball from Tatemae and project partner in the JISC RI SupOERGlue, recently posted on the Open Tapestry blog about ...

read post

MEDEV, School of Medical Sciences Education Development,
Faculty of Medical Sciences, Newcastle University, NE2 4HH