Australia's Monash University is establishing an electronic press to publish journals and other academic resources online in competition with commercial publishers.
Melbourne-based Monash said the e-press would initially publish journals associated with the university. It committed A$700,000 (£1,000) towards the project, which will be managed by the university's library during a two-year trial.
The creation of the online publisher followed a move by Australia's research-intensive universities to create an archive of research publications as part of a scheme to make academic research more widely accessible.
The University of Melbourne has set up an "e-print repository", allowing its academics to upload pre-publication drafts or final versions of peer-reviewed journal articles, as well as theses, book chapters, conference papers and any other literature.
The first items to be produced for its e-press should appear before the end of the year. They will include up to ten journals as well as conference papers and some monographs.
Monash librarian Catherine Harboe-Ree said 20 journals run by Monash academics had been identified. "Further down the track, we also hope to be able to assist other Australian universities towards making this move," she said. "Electronic presses are now well-established in America and the numbers are growing in Europe."
Monash academics believe the local e-press will help shift control of scholarly information away from commercial publishers and back to the researchers and academics who produce it. It should also overcome the often lengthy delays experienced with traditional publishing and help resolve questions of intellectual property.
Ms Harboe-Ree said that more than 60 per cent of the world's refereed journals were published commercially, and in the science, biotech and biomedical fields the figure would be even higher. She said an underlying intent behind the trial was to provide researchers with a more cost-effective way "to find an audience".
"If it has an impact on commercial publishing to improve the price structure, that would be a good thing," Ms Harboe-Ree said. She added that the decision to have the library manage the e-press reflected the innovative use that contemporary academic libraries made of digital technology. "The difference will be the immediacy that publishing in an electronic format allows, as well as the ready access and electronic presence it will provide for Australian research activity."
• The extent to which universities can respond to pressures from commercial competitors will be a matter for discussion at the conference sessions associated with the World Education Market in Lisbon next month.