Bucerius Law School Press: „We promote Open Access“

Martin Vorberg, Library Director of Bucerius Law School and founder of the university's own publishing house on premium packages, courageous doctoral students and his experience with foreign guest researchers.

Forschung & Fakultät |

Martin Vorberg has been the head of the Bucerius Law School Library since 2002. Together with his team, he is responsible for the school’s information logistics – which includes not only the main library, 20 chair libraries and the adjoining 5 institute libraries, but also being responsible for supplying the entire campus with electronic resources, cooperation with other libraries in Hamburg as well as coordinating the inter-library loan system. In addition, for the past two years, he has also been in charge of the university's own publishing house, which he merged with the campus library.

What kind of special services does the library team offer visiting scholars from abroad?

Due to the short duration of their stay, foreign guest researchers receive intensive support, including everything from language help, to assistance in completing their demanding research projects. Many are particularly grateful when we establish additional contacts to other libraries with highly specialized information sources, help in establishing the foundation for their work there and on occasion, even accompany them on their first visit.

What are your experiences working with foreign scholars?

We have, without exception, had positive experiences with guest researchers from abroad. The encounters are always friendly, polite and in a spirit of mutual respect. We have never encountered insurmountable language barriers. So far, our interactions are still seldom, but when they do occur, they are very thorough. For example, we once assisted a doctoral student from Iran, who scanned the contents of about 100 books for her work.

Eight years ago, Bucerius Law School founded its own publication platform, Bucerius Law School Press. Why?

University publishers, of which the first major ones were founded in Cambridge and Oxford in the 16th century, have always had the goal of furthering academic communication. These days, this communication is increasingly happening in a hybrid manner, i.e. both in printed and digital formats. Certainly, a publishing house can help benefit the reputation of a university. However, from the start, we were concerned not only in publishing conference proceedings and conference reports, but above all, to be able to offer a special service to our doctoral students who are working on their magna cum laude doctorate projects.

What distinguishes this service?

There are a total of four options to choose from: ranging from a purely digital and free publication in Open Access through a basic or a professional version, in which authors are still required to make their own contributions (such as reformatting their text), all the way to a premium package in which I basically take care of everything, including editing and proofreading. This service costs 3,500 euros, which to be honest, is still only a fraction of what other publishers charge. Within ten business days the work can be produced as a book-on-demand, while larger publishers can easily take up to half a year.

Can international scholars also publish their works through Bucerius Law School Press?

A fascinating question – it has never happened before! If external guests (regardless whether from Germany or abroad) are supervised by internal professors, they can of course also publish in our publishing house. However, for the most part, they are still not aware of our publishing opportunities. Perhaps they didn’t come across my advertising yet, or the professors who supervise them still tend to refer them to renowned legal publishers in Berlin or southern Germany, rather than to the Bucerius Law School Press. In any case, I will continue to diligently advertise our publishing house - and who knows, maybe one day we will soon see our first international publication?!

How many dissertations in German have been published by Bucerius Law School Press in the meantime?

Since the founding of the publishing house, approximately 300 doctoral theses have been written at the university, 30 of which have been published by us. That doesn't seem like a lot. But you have to take into consideration that nothing sells as poorly in the book business as a legal dissertation. While an average of 15 printed copies are purchased per volume, they are simultaneously downloaded anywhere been 4 to 500 times in full text.

Do you mean to say that in the meantime too many people publish exclusively digital?

No, only a few are that courageous - maybe one in ten. These are mostly people who know that Open Access guarantees maximum visibility and dissemination of their work.

...and what do you say to that as a librarian?

We support Open Access because it is an ideal way to disseminate scientific information. The research which a doctoral student has been working on for two to sometimes eight years is available worldwide and free of charge within two hours.

Do you expect that in the future even more graduates will publish their dissertations at Bucerius Law School Press?

Absolutely. I will continue to work hard at promoting our publishing house. Currently, I contact everyone directly who is starting their doctoral project here and try to make them aware of our publishing opportunities and the services provided by me and my team. However, many people still turn to the big publishing houses, almost like an automatic reflex, and these houses offer completely different marketing possibilities than we do. That being said, I have continued to observe that many young people are increasingly consuming e-books, electronic databases and digital magazines in our libraries. This gives me great hope that this generation will become even more open and inclined to the use of Open Access and the opportunities offered by our publishing house. I continue to watch this development with great interest. In this regard: Rome was not built in a day, and our publishing house is also a long term project.

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This interview was first published in the Bucerius Jahresheft zur Forschung 2018/2019 (pdf)

Übersetzung: David Patrician