SciELO Books 10 Years: Interview with the Vice-Rector of Culture and Open Science at the University of Coimbra, Delfim Ferreira Leão

By Abel Packer and Amanda Ramalho

SciELO Books celebrates ten years of operation focused on the development of infrastructure and capabilities for publishing academic books in digital format according to the state of the art.

As part of the ten years celebratory event, which is proposed as a forum for the recognition of advances and challenges and, mainly, for the debate on the future of the digital book in the light of open access and open science, we are publishing interviews with speakers at the meeting and authorities of institutions directly linked to the development of SciELO.

We interviewed Prof. Dr. Delfim Ferreira Leão, Vice-Rector of Culture and Open Science at the University of Coimbra.

 1. [SciELO Books] In 2020, the University of Coimbra Press decided to publish in Open Access all publications from the last 20 years. What motivated this movement and what is your view on open science for books?

[DELFIM LEÃO] The UC Digitalis platform, of which “Pombalina” is a part, was actually launched in 2012, completing now precisely ten years of existence, having its creation motivated by the same vision that, independently, SciELO Books also developed on the other side of the Atlantic. The main objective was to make academic books more easily accessible, which faced chronic obstacles in terms of their physical distribution. Open access to journals was already accumulating a very significant experience, but in the case of books, the road was still practically all to be done, given the weight and almost “sacredness” that the printed book held in the academic environment, particularly in Humanities and Social Sciences. At that time, it was therefore decided to prioritize the option of open access to books, and the encouraging results obtained led, in 2020, to a decision to universalize the preference for open access to all University of Coimbra Press (Imprensa da Universidade de Coimbra, IUC) publications of the last 20 years.

2. [SciELO Books] In your capacity as Vice-Rector for Culture and Open Science at the University of Coimbra, what characterizes the relationship between Cultural Development and Open Science?

[DL] It is a natural and deeply fruitful relationship. On the one hand, because open and generalized access to cultural goods is, in itself, a goal with undeniable potential for aggregating society and civic enrichment; on the other hand, because Open Science is increasingly becoming the academic culture par excellence and should constitute the “new normal”. And just as open access to scientific output stimulates the development of more and better science, so a broad and shared enjoyment of Culture awakens and improves collective creativity.

3. [SciELO Books] Pombalina is a digital library of books and is linked to the University of Coimbra Press (IUC), and today publishes more than 1,000 books. What were the main lessons learned from the development of this library?

[DL] Perhaps the most significant answer can be illustrated with the famous expression of Fernando Pessoa: “First you find it strange. Then you go inside.” So, it happened as well with the experience of putting books on open access: it faced many doubts at first — from copyright concerns to fears of commercial nature— but the experience made its way safely and consistently, to the point where to now it reaps the clear preference of most academic authors. If there is a lesson to be learned, it is this: to believe in the power of a good idea and not give up in the face of the multiple difficulties that will certainly arise, as time will eventually make the advantages of this option evident, initially seen as too disruptive, but later as an indispensable good.


The event celebrating SciELO Books’ ten years anniversary will happen on March 31th, 2022, starting at 9:00 AM (BRT). Register for the event and check the program in:


External links

SciELO Books 10 Years:

SciELO Books:


Translated from the original in Portuguese by Lilian Nassi-Calò.


Como citar este post [ISO 690/2010]:

PACKER, A.L. and RAMALHO, A. SciELO Books 10 Years: Interview with the Vice-Rector of Culture and Open Science at the University of Coimbra, Delfim Ferreira Leão [online]. SciELO in Perspective, 2022 [viewed ]. Available from:


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