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Gregynog Colloquium- a conference with a difference

LaraSpeicher25 July 2016

The Gregynog Colloquium is the annual residential conference of WHELF (Wales Higher Education Libraries Forum) and HEWIT (Higher Education Wales Information Technology) where Welsh HE librarians and IT specialists gather to share knowledge and ideas and to hear about new initiatives from other institutions. Drawing around 188 colleagues annually from Welsh HE libraries, the Gregynog Colloquium is held in the stunning location of Gregynog Hall in Powys, a 750-acre estate and national nature reserve with a fascinating cultural history, including its own private press. Gregynog is being established as an independent charitable trust to safeguard the important academic and cultural heritage of Gregynog under a University of Wales initiative, with support from the Gwendoline and Margaret Davies Charity, the sisters who owned Gregynog in the 20th century and established its cultural initiatives. It is used throughout the year for residential courses for students of Welsh universities. I was invited to speak about the work of UCL Press, and about the general increase in new open access university presses being established within libraries, both in the UK and abroad.

The Hall was rebuilt in the 19th century by the Sudeley family who were pioneers in the use of concrete as a building material. The Sudeleys owned the Gregynog Estate at the time but their primary seat was in Toddington in Gloucestershire. The innovative use of concrete can be seen throughout the building. The banisters are a particular achievement: I must admit, I don’t normally pay particular attention banisters, but these are worth a mention. Rather than being a traditional wooden handrail, the banisters at Gregynog are actually a handrail shaped groove in the wall, molded out of concrete.

After several hundred years of private ownership, in 1913 a huge estate sale saw Gregynog’s farms, cottages and woodlands sold off, many to their tenants. Gregynog Hall might have been demolished had not the wealthy Davies sisters acquired it in 1920 to become the headquarters of their enterprise to bring art, music and creative skills to the people of Wales in the aftermath of the First World War. For twenty years the house was full of music, fine furniture and ceramics, hand-printed books from the Gregynog Press and, most extraordinary of all, the sisters’ collection of paintings by artists such as Monet, Cezanne and Van Gogh. Leading lights, such as George Bernard Shaw and Gustav Holst visited during these years for musical concerts – or simply to enjoy the beautiful gardens and woodland walks. At the end of the 1950s, after wartime use as a Red Cross convalescent home, Gregynog was bequeathed to the University of Wales as a conference centre. It welcomed its first students in 1963 and they’ve been coming ever since. The Gregynog Press, a private press founded by the sisters, printed the works of many rising stars in the world of illustration during its years of operation, and is still running to this day.

The Hall is still home to stunning artefacts and works of art. One of the original printing presses used by the Gregynog Press is on display in the Hall, as are works by many of the most famous artists who contributed works to the Press in its heyday in the 1920s and 1930s – Agnes Miller Parker, Blair Hughes-Stanton, David Jones and Gertrude Hermes. The Davies sisters’ works of art are on display in their drawing room where the drinks reception was held during the conference. It is a place that feels slightly lost in time, where an Agatha Christie murder mystery would not be out of place. The Davies sisters’ library is still in situ, and contains a collection of books that anyone interested in the arts and humanities would be proud to own – not necessarily because of the rarity of the books in the collection but because of the breadth: classic works of fiction, monographs on significant artists, and works of philosophy, history and classics fill two large rooms and the corridors.

I was only there for the first day of the conference itself, which started with a keynote speech by Chris Banks, Director of Library Services at Imperial College London, who spoke inspiringly about the academic library of the future. This was followed by presentations by Steve Williams of Swansea University, and Paul Jeorett of Wrexham Glyndwr University, the latter talking about the rise and fall of international students from different parts of the world, and the potential of the outcome of the Brexit referendum to change the international student cohort figures significantly (it is hard now to remember a time when Brexit seemed just a remote possibility). He highlighted the important work librarians do to help international students.

I was sorry I couldn’t stay at Gregynog longer. The impressive surroundings and significant cultural associations, the fascinating history, the stunning location, and the association with a long-running private press, made this a memorable occasion. I enjoyed meeting the conference attendees and the staff at Gregynog, who were knowledgeable and passionate about Gregynog and its history.

What was most abundant and welcome, although slightly difficult to get used to, was the silence: there were no sirens, no traffic, there were no TVs in the rooms and no lifts, all the noises one usually hears in a typical urban hotel. All I could hear as the sun rose were the birds and the sheep.

Thoughts of a Journal Managing Editor: The (Blessed) Proliferation of Academic Publications and the Challenge of Getting a Foot in the Door

AlisonFox19 July 2016

Today’s guest blog is by Ira Ryk-Lakhman, PhD student at the UCL Faculty of Laws and Managing Editor of the UCL Journal of Law and Jurisprudence.

Following the footsteps of my predecessor, Ms Diana Richards, I would like to share one of the main challenges that have accompanied my role as the Managing Editor of the UCL Journal of Law and Jurisprudence: getting a foot in the door in a world of prevalent academic journals and competing publications.

The UCL Journal of Law and Jurisprudence is a law journal edited and published by graduate (Masters and PhD) students of UCL Laws. The Journal publishes scholarly contributions from academics, researchers and practitioners, as well as showcasing outstanding research of post-graduate students at UCL. The Journal’s primary aim is to make a high-quality contribution to current debates on local and global issues of law and jurisprudence. We seeks to add to the vibrant intellectual life of UCL’s world leading law school, a place where originality and innovation are highly prized, and where the shared pursuit of ideas remains fundamental to the Faculty’s continuing success.

Importantly, the Journal was one of the first law journals in the UK to fully implement the open access policy and offer all its issues and contributions free and online since its very first issue in 2012. Today, many law journals worldwide too offer open access publications. This is of course a welcome step which bolsters academic debate and facilitates the engagement with the public. However, with this blessed progress gives rise to a newly found challenge – the competition over the quality and quantity of submissions, and the promotion of existing and upcoming publications. So how does a new, starting, or existing journal find its place in an online, accessible, digital world that offers hundreds of, professedly, similar platforms? The answer is rather straightforward in fact and comprises three main steps.

Step No. 1: “What are you?” Much like with everything else in life, running a journal requires some soul-searching. The editorial board would be smart to pre-define its identity, target audience, and goals. Are you a niche journal? Are you a generalist publication? Do you seek to prompt a specific field or methodology of research? Are you focused on a certain locale or jurisdiction? Do you aim for practitioners or academics? Would you allow students, or junior researchers to publish with you? The answers to these questions, and similar ones, assist in molding and shaping the identity of the journal.

Step No. 2: “Who are you?” Once the identity of the journal is clearer it is time to move to the second step, which concerns the people working on and with the journal. The human resources of a journal, any journal, are an integral part of its success. To illustrate, each member of the editorial board brings with him his own set of skills, views, and previous experience – use all of them. One of the questions we ask when interviewing applicants for an editorial position is: “what would you change or add to the journal as an editor?” Each potential member of the board has a different perspective, and as a result a different proposition. Be attentive and open minded. Additionally, each member brings with him his own connections, colleagues, friends, and affiliations. In other words: a list of potential readers, followers, and contributors. Finally, now that you know who you are, do not forget to put a face to a name. Many academics complain about the process of submissions’ review (and rightly so) – they do not know the people reading their work and their qualifications, and thus often doubt the views and editing suggestions. In fact, many potential authors prefer knowing the identity of the editorial board (as a whole, not the specific [blind] reviewers). It, in fact, will come as no surprise to learn that most people prefer having some (visional) idea how the people they work with look. If so, why should the work of the author and the editor of his contribution be any different? For this reason, it seems rather sensible to include not only a list of the editorial and advisory board, but also a short bio of each member of the board. This increases the Journal’s engagement with the authors and readers on the one hand, and builds a sense of community amongst the board itself. Further, under this second step, a journal would be wise to inquire who are the people and organizations that may find interest in the journal – non-profit organizations, research facilities, firms, faculties, and so on. These, in turn, may be happy to collaborate and sponsor a journal that coincides with their identity.

Step No.3: “Work with what you’ve got”. Now that you know what you are and who you are – use it. Here the journal is required to demonstrate creativity, innovation, and resilience, so as to be noticeable, accessible, and competitive with other platforms in the field.  For instance, publishing a call for papers on your (say) Facebook account would reach those following your account, but not others. Thus, it is necessary to publish the same CfP with other specialized social media groups and forums, online blogs in the field, specialized accounts that promote publications, etc. It is also useful to circulate said CfP amongst faculties and academic institutions. However, sending it only to UCL staff and students would reach a limited number of potential readers and authors, thus the circulation list ought to include the alma mater of each and every single one of the members of your board. These examples alone are illustrative of the manner a Journal is capable of reaching some thousands of people, free of charge. Along these lines, it is also advisable to be original and innovative. For instance: If you have sponsors, try to prompt cooperation with them – launch events, publications, meetings, etc.; if you use the UCL OJS service – personalize it to your logo, colors, forms, fonts, etc.; if you publish hard copies – send them to those who may be interested; consider launching a blog using the available UCL Blogs platforms, and so on.

Finally, the most important step of this three-step program is: repeat, repeat, and repeat. This will assist you to get a foot in the door and stay there.

 

About the author

Ira Ryk-Lakhman is a PhD student at the UCL Faculty of Laws. She is researching the protection and regulation of foreign investments in times of hostilities. Ira serves as the Managing Editor of the UCL Journal of Law and Jurisprudence and the UCL Law Journal Blog.

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People behind the press: meet our Managing Editor

JaimeeBiggins11 July 2016

In a semi-regular blog series, we’ll introduce you to the people behind the press.  Today we’re shining the spotlight on Jaimee Biggins, who is our Managing Editor.

What is your role and what does it involve?

In my role as Managing Editor at UCL Press, I’m responsible for guiding books and journals through production from manuscript to publication.

I coordinate all production activities including briefing suppliers and freelancers, managing schedules and budgets, quality checking content throughout the process and leading author communication.

On a day-to-day level, I’m tracking progress of my titles, monitoring key dates and problem-solving as issues arise. I ensure that UCL Press content is ready for print and online publication.

As well as producing print copies of all our books, we also do epub/Kindle versions and enhanced digital versions of some of our books, so my role is increasingly digitally focused and involves making sure that the final file is ready for all the various outputs.

As an Open Access publisher, we also upload a downloadable PDF of all our books on UCL Discovery and disseminate the PDF to various Open Access platforms – so the process doesn’t just end at final file stage.

How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?

I joined UCL Press Jaimee Bigginstwo years ago. My previous role was Team Leader at Oxford University Press. I supervised a team of production editors working on academic and trade books.

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?

In my previous job, I spent five weeks in India as a short-term project manager. I visited several of our core suppliers as we rolled out important production initiatives.

It was great to be on the ground, shadowing my counterparts and learning about workflows at our suppliers. It was also a fantastic experience to be immersed in a different culture too.

Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of you to-do list?

At the moment, I’m focusing on our autumn books and journals. We have a varied list and I’m busy making sure we achieve our planned publication dates.

What is your favourite album, film and novel?

Album: Madonna: Greatest Hits

Film: It’s a Wonderful Life

Novel: The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields

What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?

I’m afraid I’m terrible with jokes!

Who would be your dream dinner guests?

Emily Dickinson

W. B. Yeats

Joan Didion

Sheryl Sandberg

Iris Murdoch

What advice would you give your younger self?

What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?

What would it surprise people to know about you?

I lived in New York for five years.

What is your favourite place?

Galway in the west coast of Ireland – I love the rugged coastline and the wild beauty of the landscape. As well as the stunning scenery, the people are friendly and welcoming and there are plenty of cosy pubs to hide in and escape the rain!

– See more at: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/staff/staff-news/0216/10022016-spotlight-on-jaimee-biggins#sthash.MBnGjDQ3.dpuf

What we learnt at El Pub: The 20th International Conference on Electronic Publishing

Chris JPenfold4 July 2016

In early June I attended ‘El Pub: The 20th International Conference on Electronic Publishing’, hosted by the University of Göttingen. The conference brought together publishers, librarians, archivists and researchers to discuss the current – largely European – landscape of electronic scholarly publishing.

Although the papers varied greatly, open access was the dominant theme across the panels. The ECRs, in particular, spoke of a policy-driven need to make government-funded research available to the public without exception. They also spoke of the well-known predicament ECRs face in deciding where and how to publish. Many have the desire to share their data and reach a wide audience via an open access platform, yet their fear of the data being misappropriated – not necessarily for commercial means but by other researchers who might use it to write ‘better’ papers – is a growing concern.

Furthermore, they expressed frustration that their career progression is dependent upon publishing in subscription journals with high impact factors, which they feel is a system designed to undermine the feasibility of open access. This system can only be broken when open access journals have built up enough traction to compete with the high impact journals, or when a universal method of quality assessment emerges to replace the metric-intensive scale currently employed.

People behind the press: meet our Marketing and Distribution Manager

AlisonFox1 July 2016

In a semi-regular blog series, we’ll introduce you to the people behind the press.  First up is Alison Major, who is the Marketing and Distribution Manager for UCL Press.

What is your role and what does it involve?

I’m Marketing and Distribution Manager for UCL Press, UCL’s university press. This means that I look after everything that happens after a book or journal has published.

I don’t really have a typical day- I can be meeting authors, negotiating with distributors, knee deep in catalogues/websites/emails, managing our social media presence (see our twitter account @uclpress, Instagram coming soon), talking to socities attending conferences and a whole host of other things.

How long Alison Majorhave you been at UCL and what was your previous role?

I’ve been at UCL since July 2015. It’s something of a homecoming, as I studied here as an undergraduate. Previously, I worked for Lippincott Williams and Wilkins (part of Wolters Kluwer) looking after various aspects of their international marketing. My last role there focused on Middle East and global south, and involved a lot of travel to some wonderful countries I might never have visited otherwise, like Oman.

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?

I am incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved at UCL Press- it’s been a very fun, exciting journey so far, and we’re extremely proud of the excellent authors that we’ve worked with. In our first year, we have published 12 books than have been downloaded 35,000 times in more than 160 countries worldwide. There are even more exciting titles to come in Autumn!

Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of you to-do list?

UCL Press’ first birthday. We are extremely proud of what we’ve achieved in the first year, so it’s great to be able to celebrate with those who have played a part in making it the success that it’s become.

What is your favourite album, film and novel?

This is a really, really hard question!

Album: Blue Afternoon by Tim Buckley or Pink Moon by Nick Drake

Film: Probably one of the Dogme films: either Festen (“The Celebration”) or Idioterne (“The Idiots”)

Novel: Master and Margerita by Mikhail Bulgakov every time. It’s just a book that keeps on giving.

What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?

I don’t really have a favourite joke that would work well when written, but my three year old niece is obsessed by this one:

What do you call a dinosaur with no eyes?

Doyathinkysaurus!

Who would be your dream dinner guests?

Nelson Mandela, William S. Burroughs, Jón Gnarr, Bill Hicks, Mata Hari, Aung San Suu Kyi, Kathleen Hanna, Pablo Escobar, Mo Mowlam, Dolly Parton, Jeff Buckley, and finally, my Fiance!

What advice would you give your younger self?

The same advice I always give to interns and students: there is no such thing as a stupid question. That, and to always ask yourself “Who died?” when something goes wrong. Inevitably, the answer is no one.

What would it surprise people to know about you?

I have been glacier hiking and didn’t scream once. Or that I can’t drive, and have never even had a single lesson.

What is your favourite place?

Another hard one! It’s so difficult to nail it down. If I really *have* to choose, it’d either be at Roskilde festival, listening to music whilst sharing a few drinks with my very best friends and watching the sun going down…or…on the wonderful island of Lokrum looking out to the Adriatic as the sun goes down, surrounded by peacocks.