Call for participation: PhD research project on open textbook publishing programs at Australian universities

This post is written by Samara Rowling, PhD Candidate, Editing & Publishing, University of Southern Queensland. Email:

Why research open textbook publishing programs at Australian universities?

While as many of you will be aware, there’s already a growing body of research on open educational practice (OEP) and open educational resource (OER) use in Australian higher education, little research has been conducted on open textbook publishing activities and experiences at Australian universities. Most existing research on open textbook publishing focuses on the international context (e.g. North America), where differences in funding and legislative support affect not only how, but the extent to which this work is undertaken. While we know from anecdotal evidence that many Australian universities are engaged in this work, currently, there is no comprehensive and cohesive data available about the state of open textbook publishing in Australia and how this compares to more established models overseas.

How am I addressing this gap in knowledge?

My Doctor of Philosophy project (HREC approval number H21REA125) will be the first national study of open textbook publishing programs at Australian universities. It aims to investigate current and emerging trends in open textbook publishing within the broader context of university and library-led publishing.

I’m collecting data for this research by surveying staff involved in open textbook publishing at Australian universities about their publishing activities and experiences. Once I’ve analysed these results, I’ll be conducting a series of follow-up interviews with a small group of participants to discuss their responses.

I’ll be sharing the data from this research in open access journals and in my PhD thesis, which I plan to make available under a Creative Commons license through my institutional repository with no embargo period, as well as as an open access book.

In my thesis, I’ll be using this data to make evidence-based recommendations about how we can build more sustainable open textbook publishing programs at Australian universities.

This 60-second animation, created for the 2021 University of Southern Queensland Visualise Your Thesis competition, gives a quick summary of the project:

What can you do to help?

If you’re involved in publishing open textbooks at an Australian university, I’m requesting your assistance with this research. Understanding how we can build more sustainable publishing programs, and consequently, increase production of high-quality Australian open textbooks will improve the student experience by helping to:

• reduce the financial burden of study

• remove geographic and copyright barriers preventing students from accessing essential course materials

• provide more accessible, diverse, and inclusive content than is typically offered by traditional publishers.

You can help with this important research by completing my 15-20 minute online survey at by 28 February 2022.

During this survey, you’ll be asked to share details about your university’s open textbook publishing activities – on topics like funding, staffing, professional development infrastructure, and outputs – as well as your own thoughts about the benefits, challenges, and opportunities of engaging in this work.

If you’re just getting started, were previously publishing but have now stopped, or have decided publishing open textbooks isn’t for you, the survey contains alternate pathways designed to capture these experiences as well. After completing the survey, you can also nominate yourself for a follow-up interview if you would like to discuss your experiences in more detail.

For more information about this research, you can contact me at In the spirit of open access, I’ll be tweeting about this project as I go along, including sharing data and links to any publications, so please follow me at @SamaraRowling for updates.

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