University View: Professor Dafydd Johnston

Posted on 9 July 2014
Online Learning

Open access is currently a big issue in academic publishing. The essential principle is that publicly funded research should be made freely available for the benefit of the public. This poses a challenge to traditional publishers, and change can only happen gradually, beginning with articles in academic journals, most of which are already published online.

Technology is crucial for open access provision, and it works best when used from the start of a research project as the most effective way of reaching target audiences. My first experience of this approach was when I led a project based at Swansea University which produced an electronic edition of the poetry of Dafydd ap Gwilym, launched in 2007. Publication online allowed us to provide a bilingual resource in which the user can choose between Welsh and English, and the site is available online free of charge at

Since I joined the University of Wales Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies in Aberystwyth open access has become a major concern because of the amount of Research Council funding that the Centre attracts for its team-based projects. Our approach has been to design digital resources from the outset, as we did with the edition of another big name of the Welsh bardic tradition, Guto’r Glyn, launched at in 2012. We will soon be publishing a print version for purchase by those who wish to have this fine poetry on their shelves, but all the fruits of our research are already freely available.

New online resources in the pipeline include texts and translations of all Welsh-language material relating to the saints of Wales, a database of key archaeological and linguistic data relating to the origins of the Celtic languages, and a gazetteer of Welsh place-names. All these resources will be hosted by the National Library of Wales.

As a specialist research centre partnership is essential to our open access strategy. By drawing on the expertise of partner institutions we can ensure that our work reaches the widest possible audience and remains sustainable. We are fortunate in being able to collaborate with the National Library on the Dictionary of Welsh Biography, one of a range of resources freely accessible on the NLW website. The printed volumes have been essential works of reference for many years, and now their contents can be searched online and regularly updated in order to enhance this national treasure for the future.

Our latest output to be offered in open access is the online version of Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru, the University of Wales Dictionary, launched today at the Senedd. The weighty tomes of this historical dictionary are one of the glories of Welsh scholarship, but the riches they contain can now be consulted far more easily by anyone with internet access. Having been publicly funded for almost a century it is only right that this record of our linguistic heritage should now be made freely available to the people of Wales and the world at

Professor Dafydd Johnston
Director, University of Wales Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies

This article was published in the Western Mail on Thursday the 26th of June, 2014.


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