Publishing with UCL Press – an author’s perspective

By Alison Major, on 6 November 2017

Today’s guest post is by Gabriel Moshenska, Senior Lecturer in Public Archaeology at UCL and author of Key Concepts in Public Archaeology, a textbook produced as part of JISC’s Institution as E-Textbook Publisher study

The book is out. It has gone where academic books are supposed to go: a copy in the library, a copy to my parents, one to my former PhD supervisor, and one placed casually on the coffee-table in my office as if to say ‘Oh this? Just my latest with UCL Press’. In these moments of pride, it’s easy to forget the blood, the sweat and the tears, so let’s take a few minutes to look back.

The colourful cover image of Stonehenge is a visual cliché in archaeology, and Key Concepts in Public Archaeology is a textbook example. Public archaeology is a mixture of science communication and science studies focused on archaeology and the ancient world, and UCL has been a leader in research, practice and teaching in this field for decades. The textbook draws on UCL Institute of Archaeology’s undergraduate module and the MA degree in public archaeology, and most of the authors of the chapters are regular guest lecturers on these courses.

Collections of papers by multiple authors are challenging to edit: one or two recalcitrant authors can delay publication and strain professional relationships, while the need to maintain a consistent standard and ‘voice’ requires a considerable effort, particularly for a textbook that needs to be more straightforwardly readable than other academic texts. The finished product, beautiful though it is, is considerably later and marginally slimmer than originally intended, but the Press remained supportive and encouraging throughout.

Public archaeology is grounded in a philosophy of openness and sharing scholarship, so the opportunity to publish an Open Access textbook with a Creative Commons license was extremely welcome. To combine this with the high editorial and production standards and the prestige of a University Press was a unique and brilliant opportunity. As chapter authors dragged their feet the Press decided to take advantage of the open, digital publishing format to launch the volume as a ‘living book’ to which additional chapters could be added until the final version appeared in print, pdf and a variety of other digital formats. This willingness to innovate was a significant part of the pleasure of working with UCL Press.

The print-runs for many academic books have dipped from the hundreds into the tens, while their prices have gone in precisely the opposite direction, and production values have apparently fallen out of somebody’s window. In contrast to this, UCL Press have produced a high-quality textbook that is improbably, gloriously free to download in pdf (as nearly two thousand people have discovered), and very reasonably priced in print. From an author/editor perspective the process has been exemplary, and I very much hope to work with UCL Press again in the future.

Open Access Week 2017: 23-27 October 2017

By Lara Speicher, on 26 October 2017

This year UCL Press is celebrating Open Access Week with the news that the 52 books we have published since launching two-and-a-half years ago have been downloaded over 500,000 times in over 200 countries around the world. This is wonderful evidence of the potential of scholarly monographs to travel when they are made freely available. The evidence is similar from other open access publishers as two reports due out in the next two weeks will show: one from Knowledge Unlatched Research and JSTOR, about the usage of open access books on its open access monograph platform, and the other from Springer Nature on its OA books usage.

Universities and other organisations around the world are celebrating Open Access Week with events to raise awareness among stakeholders of the benefits of publishing scholarly research as open access. Today I spoke at an event at Cambridge University aimed at helping researchers understand the open access publishing landscape. Speakers included publishers (Cambridge University Press, Open Humanities Press, Open Book Publishers, UCL Press), SocArxiv (a preprints platform), and The Conversation (a free online news site featuring articles written by academics). For researchers grappling with open access it was useful to hear such a range of publishing options, many of which demonstrated that authors are achieving considerable global reach with different OA models.

The questions from the floor indicated that many misconceptions and concerns about open access still persist: early career researchers are still advised by their supervisors to publish with well-known traditional presses; worry that REF panels are influenced by publisher brand; and concern that open access publishing is lower quality.

There is much work still to be done but Open Access Week is a good opportunity to focus on the positives. Cambridge University Library was celebrating a particular success – it had just released Stephen Hawking’s PhD thesis as open access on its repository. In just a few days it has had over 750,000 unique views and received media attention from far and wide. A great open access success story.

Frankfurt Book Fair

By Lara Speicher, on 24 October 2017

The Frankfurt Book Fair is the oldest and largest book fair in the world. Founded in 1454, it has taken place regularly ever since, and it attracts more than 7,000 exhibitors from over 100 countries and over 278,000 visitors annuallydownload(2016 figures). It has five separate halls each with several floors. The Fair has a dual purpose: for most international publishers it is a trade fair where they come to do business every year: to sell international rights, and meet with suppliers and other collaborators and colleagues, and that is what the first three days of the Fair are devoted to. For many of the German publishers, it is very much a Fair to promote their new books to the public, and visitors come at the weekend to see the displays of books and attend author presentations.

Each year there is a country of honour, and this year it was France. The Fair was opened by Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Emmanuel Macron, demonstrating the importance of the Fair to international trade and culture. Every day on the German news there are reports from the Fair’s activities, showing the central place it holds ifbfn the country’s calendar.

This year was the first year that UCL Press exhibited. We had a small stand in Hall 4.2 where we were surrounded by other UK and European university presses, and other science publishers and small scholarly publishers. I attended for the first three days then Jaimee Biggins, UCL Press’s Managing Editor, came to look after the stand for the weekend and attend a Convention of International University Presses (see here for more).

I had over 25 meetings during the three days I was there, and among those I met were other university presses and other institutions with whom we have collaborative projects already happening or in development, such as Chicago and Cornell University Presses; other university presses for sharing of knowledge and information, such as Sydney University Press and Wits University Press; publishing associations with whom we are collaborating such as the Association of American University Presses, the Association of European University Presses and ALPSP; our existing suppliers and distributors such as NBN, OAPEN, JSTOR and Science Open; and potential new suppliers and collaborators.

Among the most interesting of this last category was a company called Baobab who distribute both print and ebooks to African university libraries. As an open access publisher with a mission to disseminate scholarly research around the globe, I was particularly keen to hear whether Baobab might be able to help UCL Press distribute its open access books to African university libraries. It turned out that Baobab has an existing service that distributes free ebooks on behalf of NGOs and aid agencies that UCL Press can take part in. Although OA books are made freely available online, ensuring that they reach targeted communities is not always easy since OA supply chains for monographs are not fully developed. So this new partnership is very encouraging and exciting, and it meets one of the key drivers of UCL’s global strategic objective of ‘increasing independent research capability around the world’ by making high-quality scholarly research freely available.

All in all it was a very worthwhile event for raising UCL Press’s profile, strengthening our existing relationships, and forging new ones, and we are already planning Frankfurt 2018!

The International Convention of University Presses

By Jaimee Biggins, on 23 October 2017

The Frankfurt Book Fair is the world’s largest trade fair for books. It takes place in October every year. UCL Press had a stand at the Fair this year where we could showcase our books, and have meetings with other academic publishers and suppliers. While at the Fair, I attended the 5th International Convention of University Presses. The Convention featured about 100 representatives from more than 22 countries and each year it offers an opportunity to discuss new trends in international academic publishing. It is a great way to network with other university presses and those working in academic publishing and gain an international perspective.

The topic this year was ‘Translation: Unlocking New Worlds of Ideas’. The day focussed mainly on foreign language authors who want to be translated into English. The keynote ‘What factors determine the circulation of scholarly books in translation?’ by Gisèle Sapiro (Director of Research at the CNRS –The French National Center for Scientific Research) set the scene for the discussion. It sparked quite a debate especially around the funding for translation of scholarly works. Scholarly books are costly to translate and do not sell many copies, so there is quite a dependence on subsidies. Other sources of funding are international organisations and private foundations. Also interesting to note is the trend of scholars choosing to write in English so they will be read right away – this is sometimes at the sacrifice of publishing in their national language. There is also a certain pressure by publishers on academics to publish in English to gain access to the widest readership possible.

In the round table discussion there was a presentation of different translation grant programmes, with speakers from organisations in countries such as Canada, Germany, Norway and France all outlining funding programmes that support translation. It was interesting to hear about schemes to support authors by offering grants which cover the cost of translation and also expenses such as book launches and promotional activities. All of the programmes aimed to make academic books more visible through translations. The criteria for this funding varied – for example the Council for the Arts, Canada, base their funding on the impact, merit and feasibility of the project. Unfortunately it is a trend that there are many more applications received than grants available. Astrid Thorn Hillig from the Association of European University Presses said that university presses need to come together collectively to claim the importance of translations and support more translations.

The day ended with pitching of a number of projects for translation by various publishers. Each speaker had two minutes to pitch their potential project, offering a synopsis of the book, and the selling points which provide a case for it to be translated. All in all the day was a real eye-opener into the world of translation and was a great way to connect with international colleagues.

October titles from UCL Press

By Alison Major, on 2 October 2017

We are delighted to announce the publication of two new open access books from UCL Press in October

In case you missed it, UCL Press also published three titles in September:

 

International Translation Day Excerpt: On Translation

By Alison Major, on 30 September 2017

This excerpt, by Andre Lefavre, is taken from Poems of Guido Gezelle: A Bilingual Anthology, where it is entitled “Translating a National Monument”

I think that of all the activities open to those who like to think of themselves as literary scholars, translation is the most scientific. I know this goes against all received opinion, and yet if one accepts, with current philosophy of science, that the demarcation line between the scientific and the non-scientific is inter-subjective testability, it is easy to see that what a translator does to a literary text is much more easily testable than what a critic, for example, does to it. I try to translate accordingly.

I believe that what I should do is to give readers the most complete set of materials for their concretization of the text. How they use them (i. e. what the text eventually comes to signify for them) is none of my business. I have no poetics of my own to justify distortions of the source text; what is more, I am not allowed to have one. Again contrary to received opinion, I do not create: I transmit. What I do is as ‘artistic’ or ‘non-artistic’ as what any translator of any text does. Of course I have to know about literature in order to translate it, but does that give me the right to call myself a ‘literary’ translator and cordon myself off from the common herd?

Others have to know about chemistry, say, or biology in order to be able to translate a text. Does that make them ‘chemical’ or ‘biological’ translators? The main thing to me is what is now more and more called the ‘pragmatics’ of the text, which roughly amounts to what used to be called something like its ‘total impact’. This means that I try to find out what effect a text makes on its readers in the original language. But that is not the end of it. I also try to imagine, in some cases, what effect it could have, and I try to find ways to remedy the fact that it does not have that effect. This also means that I translate texts, not words or sentences. It means, moreover, that I translate texts written by very specific writers at a very specific time, not ‘anonymous’ texts.

 

Join us at the launch of Sri Lanka at the Crossroads of History

By Alison Major, on 27 September 2017

Join the UCL Centre for the Study of South Asia and the Indian Ocean World, the UCL Institute of Advanced Studies and UCL Press to celebrate the publication of Sri Lanka at the Crossroads of History, edited by Zoltán Biedermann (UCL) and Alan Strathern (Oxford).

Date: 30th October 2017, 6-8pm

Location: UCL Institute of Advanced Studies

All welcome, but registration is required

The peoples of Sri Lanka have participated in far-flung trading networks, religious formations, and Asian and European empires for millennia. This interdisciplinary volume sets out to draw Sri Lanka into the field of Asian and Global History by showing how the latest wave of scholarship has explored the island as a ‘crossroads’, a place defined by its openness to movement across the Indian Ocean. Experts in the history, archaeology, literature and art of the island from c.500 BCE to c.1850 CE use Lankan material to explore the history and historiography of Sri Lanka, the Indian Ocean region, kingship, colonialism, imperialism, and early modernity.

Read more about the book here.

CfP: Modern Americas Series

By Chris J Penfold, on 26 September 2017

Editors: Claire Lindsay, Tony McCulloch, Maxine Molyneux, Kate Quinn

Modern Americas is a brand new series that will publish open access books on the culture, politics, and history of the Americas from the nineteenth century to the present day. The series aims to foster national, international, trans-national, and comparative approaches to topics in the region, including those that bridge geographical and/or disciplinary divides, such as between the disparate parts of the hemisphere covered by the series (the US, Latin America, Canada, and the Caribbean) or between the humanities and social/natural sciences.

The series invites proposals for monographs and edited volumes from scholars in all disciplines. The editors will also consider publication-ready translations of works that have originally appeared in Spanish, French, or Portuguese.

All books published in the list will be available in free online access form.

Proposals (including three sample chapters and an introduction, all in English) may be sent to Dr Claire Lindsay (claire.lindsay@ucl.ac.uk) and Dr Tony McCulloch (tony.mcculloch@ucl.ac.uk)

 

 

Bloomsbury Scientists Reviewed in the Daily Telegraph

By Alison Major, on 25 September 2017

bloomsburyWe’re delighted that the Daily Telegraph chose to review Bloomsbury Scientists: Science and Art in the Wake of Darwin in Saturday’s issue of Review. Spanning pages 27 and 28, andpublished under the title ‘Imbeciles should certainly be killed’, the review notes that the book ‘concocts a confusing, ugly, fascinating account of the battle between arts and sciences’ and describes it as ‘absorbing’.

As with all UCL Press outputs, the book is available to download free, and also in reasonably priced paperback and hardback editions.

Win a copy of Why Icebergs Float with Goodreads!

By Alison Major, on 19 September 2017

To celebrate a year since the publication of Why Icebergs Float, we’ve teamed up with Goodreads to offer avid readers the opportunity to win one of three copies! To enter, use the line below [free membership required].

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Why Icebergs Float by Andrew Morris

Why Icebergs Float

by Andrew Morris

Giveaway ends October 20, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway


From paintings and food to illness and icebergs, science is happening everywhere. Rather than follow the path of a syllabus or textbook, Andrew Morris takes examples from the science we see every day and uses them as entry points to explain a number of fundamental scientific concepts – from understanding colour to the nature of hormones – in ways that anyone can grasp. While each chapter offers a separate story, they are linked together by their fascinating relevance to our daily lives. If you can’t wait to read it, it can be downloaded for free from here, or viewed online here.

The topics explored in each chapter are based on hundreds of discussions the author has led with adult science learners over many years – people who came from all walks of life and had no scientific training, but had developed a burning curiosity to understand the world around them. This book encourages us to reflect on our own relationship with science and serves as an important reminder of why we should continue learning as adults