University Press Redux: The Return

By Lara Speicher, on 16 November 2017

For me, and I think for many others in the university press sector, the first University Press Redux Conference in March 2016 marked a sea change in the way UK university presses are seen, and see themselves.

Kick-started by the momentum generated by the Academic Book of the Futureproject (a two-year research project into the scholarly publishing industry, funded and supported by AHRC and the British Library, 2015-2017), the first University Press Redux Conference in Liverpool in March 2016 was launched by Anthony Cond, Managing Director of Liverpool University Press (winner of both the Bookseller and the IPG Awards for Independent Academic Publisher of the Year in 2015).

I use the word ‘launched’ deliberately, since ‘organised’ does not fully convey what Anthony achieved in that first conference. Attended by over 150 delegates from around the world and with speakers from the US, UK and Europe covering all aspects of university press (UP) activities, and with representatives from all levels and functions, the conference offered an opportunity on this side of the Atlantic for university presses to meet, discuss and exchange ideas and information. The mood was buoyant, the presentations were stimulating, and we all learnt a huge amount.

Redux 2016 happened at a particular moment, which also helps to explain its success. Scholarly publishing is undergoing significant change, with a challenging market, changes in library supply, digital distribution, new HE policies, and changing university missions which have led to a reexamination of the purpose of university presses. At the same time, many new presses have been springing up, signaling a desire on the part of institutions to do things differently. Redux was an opportunity to share those challenges and changes with all those who work in the sector – not just the UPs, but also the affiliated sectors that we work with: libraries, authors, academics, suppliers, policy makers, funders and our own institutions.

The things that shone through clearly to me during that conference were threefold:

1) that we are a ‘thing’, with distinct skills, responsibilities and challenges, quite different from scholarly publishing generally, even though we share many similarities
2) that despite our shared identity, we are also remarkably diverse in our outputs, activities, practices, sizes and missions
3) that we should be incredibly proud of what we do, and that our parent institutions should also be incredibly proud of what we do for scholarship and for our universities’ brand recognition

And what also came through very clearly was the feeling that we must do this again.

And so Redux was born as a regular event on the conference calendar. The University Press Redux 2018 takes place on 13-14 February 2018, at the British Library Conference Centre. It will take place every two years, and it is now ably supported by ALPSP, putting it on a firm footing for the future. Each conference will be hosted in a different location by a different university press which is responsible for organizing the speakers and the programme.

I volunteered for Redux 2018 for the main reason that having only launched in 2015, UCL is very new university press with a fully open access model which is still very unusual. As such, UCL Press is keen to collaborate as much as possible with other university presses – to help establish itself, to learn, and to share its experience of its OA model. But also, I volunteered because it’s fun. I think we are incredibly lucky to work in such a collegial sector. There is a genuine eagerness to collaborate and help each other which really stands out.

Registration for Redux 2018 bookings is now open and well underway – please join us for two full days of stimulating conversation and presentations. We look forward to seeing you in February!

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!

COASP – Conference of the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (Lisbon, 20-21 September 2017)

By Lara Speicher, on 27 September 2017

The annual conference organised by OASPA took place in Lisbon this year, and for the first time members of UCL Press were there to present a paper and to attend the conference. Now in its 9th year, COASP presents a key opportunity for publishers and affiliated colleagues – such as librarians, funding agencies, government, academics and higher education communities – to gather and discuss developments in open access for scholarly research.

This year’s conference started with an inspiring talk by Jean-Claude Burgelman, Head of Open Data Policy and Science Cloud for the European Commission, who outlined the Commission’s vision for open access to scholarly research. This included an announcement that the Commission would start to publish articles themselves and would be seeking a partner to provide a journal publishing platform with fast publication times and open peer review, along the lines of that adopted by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust (both of whom use the F1000 publishing platform).

Sessions followed on open infrastructure, APCs, research evaluation and assessment and peer review, with speakers including the Head of Scholarly Communications at Cambridge University Library, Danny Kingsley, the Publisher for PLOS, Louise Page, and the Head of Open Research for the Wellcome Trust, Robert Kiley. Interspersed, were panel presentations featuring related initiatives in OA infrastructure, policy and publishing.

The conference and the society are geared towards scientific journals, and there was therefore very little on OA monograph publishing. I was on the only panel discussing OA book publishing, focussing on peer review for OA monographs, along with Anke Beck, CEO of De Gruyter, and Aina Svensson, Head of the Electronic Publishing Centre at Uppsala University Library. Many delegates commented after our presentations on how different peer review is for books than for journals, since it involves considerably more editorial development and discussion, and often makes a significant contribution towards the shaping of the overall book, rather than simply evaluating quality.

Overall, it was an immensely useful couple of days and, as always at conferences, it was also a chance to see our many colleagues and partners in the industry who come from far and wide and who we don’t see very often, and to meet new publishers and hear about other initiatives and practices from around the world. I was particularly interested to meet the university presses of the University of Technology Sydney and Adelaide University, who both have thriving OA book and journal publishing programmes. It was also great to meet the Head of University of Missouri Library’s Open Scholarship and Publishing Services, who have a fantastic open access textbook programme that has seen great success so far, and from which UCL Press’s developing OA textbook programme can draw inspiration.

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.

Arcticness as a home

By Alison Major, on 16 August 2017

Today’s excerpt, is from the Editorial Introduction of Arcticness, a multi-contributor volume edited by Ilan Kelman, UCL .

People and communities, lives and livelihoods. These define the Arctic, just as with all other populated areas on the planet. Is there, then, anything special, specific, exceptional or unique about the Arctic? To the peoples in the Arctic, the answer is ‘of course’.

Because it is home.

As Arctic literature is fond of stating, there is no single Arctic. Definitions abound, from being a region or place to being an idea or phenomenon. The Arctic is delineated by latitude, tree lines, national and subnational borders and indigenous territories, among many other suggestions. All these elements vaguely concentrate into the northern areas of Canada, Finland, Norway, Russia and Sweden along with all of Alaska, Greenland and Iceland.

This is the Arctic as a place – and the Arctic as place. The Arctic is also characterised, perhaps more so, by its people. Depending on where boundaries are set exactly, the Arctic’s population is anywhere from approximately 4  million to approximately 13  million people. About 10 per cent of Arctic inhabitants are indigenous, belonging to 40 different groups, examples of which are Saami, Inuit, Nenets, Yakuts and Aleuts. In some jurisdictions, such as Nunavut and Greenland, indigenous peoples are the majority. All Arctic areas have comparatively low population density.

Arctic indigenous peoples are partly defined by the way in which they were colonised from the south. Iceland is the only Arctic country without designated indigenous peoples. The other seven countries have never fully addressed their post-colonial legacy which included active suppression of indigenous languages and cultures, forcing nomadic peoples to settle, and taking indigenous children away from their families for the purpose of ‘education’ and ‘acculturation’.

As part of aiming to re-connect Arctic peoples and places, and to redress past mistakes, each post-colonial Arctic country apart from Russia has, to a large degree, settled land claims with Arctic indigenous peoples. The settlements occurred in different ways and in different time periods, with implementation, monitoring and enforcement still not fully functional in many instances.

The generational context adds complexity. The generation of leaders who grew up under colonialism and who negotiated the settlements are now in the process of retiring. They are giving way to a new generation of leaders who did not experience similar difficulties or frontline fights for autonomy and the recognition of indigenous cultures. They face other challenges, such as low educational attainment, high rates of substance use and abuse, and high suicide rates.

They are also looking to connect to the world beyond their (mis) governing state through the internet and social media to define and re-define, and to be proud of, their indigeneity, their peoples and their places; that is, their Arctic. The battles are not over. Greenland’s independence is still a possibility. Racism against indigenous peoples remains. The peoples are not homogeneous groups, such as the Saami who have different livelihoods including reindeer herding, fishing, both and neither.

Non-indigenous Arctic peoples also represent the Arctic, not just Icelanders but also those born and/or living in the north but without an Arctic indigenous heritage. One class of Arctic peoples, most notably in Scandinavia, comprises immigrants from around the world, including refugees, who fully settled in the Arctic and who are now raising first-generation, Arctic-born families with diverse, international heritages.

Within this Arctic rainbow, what is the Arctic? How do Arctic peoples relate to their places? The ways include living, livelihoods, environments and movements. In many locales, movement means the typical commute by private or public transport to a nine-to-five office job. In many locales, it is the typical subsistence hunting, conversing with the wind, feeling the sea, traipsing the land and traversing the ice.

Water (solid and liquid) and wind flow, bringing with them life and death. The Arctic peoples flow with them. Movement, survival and thriving are choreographed within the elements and within the colours of the seasons:  blue, grey and white melding with brown, green and splashes of colour in summer flora and fauna. The ever-changing kaleidoscope of weather and skies, of animals and oceans, of plants and the Earth, creates Arctic flows and ebbs.

Transitions and boundaries are prominent but fuzzy. Snow melds into land shifts to water becomes ice, drifting lazily under the dazzling dome of the summer sun and the scintillating stars of the wild winter. When the ice roads thaw making transport difficult, inland communities are spoken of as being landlocked. When the ocean is too rough for boats and the wind is too dangerous for planes, island communities are seen as being entrapped.

What vocabulary suggests being icelocked? The ice can be too thin on the water or too crevassed on the land, or just too slushy everywhere. The transition between seasons can be harsh when the land ice and sea ice mixtures do not permit safe transport. Then, one’s Arctic place becomes evident, as an islander or not, as someone who enjoys being indoors or not.

Movement and entrapment mean that Arctic placeness is not contentedly fixed. In any case, the glaciers, the ice, the snow, the water and the wind are always in motion. The rivers and the seas emote ripples and waves. The tides breathe for the water and the wind for the air. Coasts erode and accrete – with both ice and sediment.

Arctic changes are expressed in other ways. From colonisation to self-determination, the Saami have created their parliaments, referenda supported autonomy for Greenland and Nunavut, and Russian regions and territories have various levels of self-governance. Exceptionalism identifies many Arctic place traits – including the internationally unique Svalbard Treaty and the central Bering Sea having its ‘donut hole’ which is an enclosed polygon of international waters surrounded by territorial seas.

The scale of Arctic territories is sometimes forgotten. From Murmansk to Chukotka, the time difference across Russia is nine hours. Alaska has only two time zones, an artificial construction, but as the largest American state more than twice the area of its nearest rival, it is almost as wide and as tall as the entire contiguous states. Ottawa– Iqaluit flights travel more than three times as far as the London– Edinburgh route and are still shorter than Greenland’s full north–south distance.

Current national borders across the Arctic are poorly reflective of indigenous cultures. The Saami are partitioned among four countries. Only modern politics draw a line between Alaska and Yukon. The Canada–Denmark dispute over Hans Island is meaningless for peoples who use the land, sea, ice and wind to live.

Many of these Arctic placeness discussions are characterised by islands and archipelagos including the Aleutians, Hans Island, Greenland, Iceland and Svalbard. Nunavut’s capital sits on Baffin Island rather than the mainland. Many of Norway’s principal Arctic settlements are on islands including Tromsø, Harstad and Hammerfest.

Island studies has evolved over the past generation, exploring the natures and personalities of islands, island communities and islanders. Much debate and critique has centred around what it means to be an island or an islander, defining and examining the essence of islandness. These and similar questions and explorations have emerged for the Arctic, Arctic communities and Arctic peoples.

Thus, we generate and query the term Arcticness through the chapters in this book.

OPERAS – Open Access in the Scholarly Research Area through Scholarly Communication

By Lara Speicher, on 18 July 2017

In June, I took part in the first meeting of all the members of a European consortium developing pan-European infrastructure and services for open access in the social sciences and humanities, led by the French organisation Open Edition. Partners from 22 organisations in 10 countries (Croatia, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and the UK) gathered to discuss the progress of the project to date and next steps in development. UCL Press joined in March 2017 as one of eight core members of the consortium.

OPERAS already has two projects underway that have received significant funding from Horizon 2020. The first of these is OPERAS-D, a design study to address the long-term requirements for governance models, structures and scientific and technical concepts for future services that the infrastructure will provide. The second is HIRMEOS (High Integration of Research Monographs in the European Open Science Infrastructure), which focuses on the monograph as a significant mode of scholarly communication, and tackles the main obstacles preventing the full integration of publishing platforms supporting open access monographs. It will do this by improving five existing open access books platforms, enhancing their technical capacities and services, ensuring their interoperability and embedding them fully into the European Open Science Cloud.

OPERAS’ final goal is to clarify the landscape of Open Access book for libraries and funders through a certification service (DOAB – Directory of Open Access Books); to improve the accessibility and dissemination of research outputs in SSH through a single discovery service; and to increase the impact of multidisciplinary research on societal challenges through a single ‘research for society’ service. It will also provide communication and advocacy, training, R&D, development of business models, standardization of technologies, and adoption of best practices for open access.

OPERAS is now planning its next stages of development – its governance, business model, legal status, and operational development over the coming years, and UCL Press is looking forward to being more involved in the next stages. At the meeting its new work packages were launched, and UCL Press will be involved in the Business Models and Communications work packages. This highly ambitious project aims to address many of the challenges that currently hamper open access from becoming the standard practice for scholarly communication. By pooling resources and expertise from across Europe, OPERAS is developing a significant step forward on the path towards open access for all.

Find out more:

JISC Institution as e-textbook publisher project workshop

By Jaimee Biggins, on 17 May 2017

UCL Press is delighted to be taking part in JISC’s Institution as e-textbook publisher project workshop on Friday  four-year institution as e-textbook publisher project which investigates the viability of higher education institutions publishing their own e-textbooks.  Book now to reserve your place.

Projects have been undertaken by UCL Press,  University of LiverpoolUniversity of Nottingham and University of the Highlands and Islands with Edinburgh Napier University. The overall objective is to assess whether the textbooks that have been created provide:

  • A more affordable higher education for students
  • Better value for money than commercial alternatives
  • An improved, more sustainable information environment for all

During the project, participating institutions are creating eight textbooks covering a range of subjects, applying business, licensing and distribution models and reporting back on the impact, value and viability of the models they choose.

Workshop overview

The four project teams will reflect back on the last three years of the project under a number of broad themes:

  • Costs: how long did the books take to write, what were the hidden costs?
  • Benchmarking: cost benefit analysis and evidence to invest in more e-textbooks
  • Technology: the technology used including lessons learned and issues faced
  • Licensing: issues encountered including CC licenses, 3rd party copyright issues
  • Dissemination, distributions and discovery: concepts and process behind the dissemination, uptake, and wider adoption of the e-textbooks
  • Uptake: evidence of usage by students and courses
  • Feedback: Would the authors do it again, would they act as champions?
  • Implications of implementation: What are the implications for the wider adoption of the e-textbooks at other institutions?

Delegates will be encouraged to make notes on these areas and to contribute thoughts and ideas in relation to their own institutions in the afternoon workshop. This will allow participants to discuss the themes and look at the notes made by others. These ideas will help shape a proposed toolkit for institutions, which will be a major outcome of the project.

The workshop will appeal to potential authors, librarians, learning technologists and senior university staff who may wish to consider publishing their own e-textbooks. Find out more here.