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.