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Author Experience: Nick Piercey

AlisonFox28 June 2018

Today’s guest post is by Nick Piercey, author of  Four Histories about Early Dutch Football 1910–1920: Constructing Discourses , Post-Doctoral Research Associate in Sport History in the Department of Exercise and Sports Science at Manchester Metropolitan University and an Honorary Research Associate in UCL’s Department of Dutch in the UCL School of European Languages, Culture & Society.

In September 2016, my first book Four Histories about Early Dutch Football 1910–1920: Constructing Discourses was published by UCL Press and 3 years after the first books were published I am delighted that my work is a very small part  of the nearly 1,000,000 UCL Press downloads from around the world. I am equally delighted that I have been given the opportunity to briefly reflect on my experiences of publishing with UCL Press with these milestones in view. As the figure suggests, the first 3 years have met with great success and to have such a large number of downloads is testament to the great work the team at UCL Press have put in. Indeed, my abiding memories of the process of publishing a book (if I ignore the sudden insecurities and panic over where to put commas) is the support given by each member of the team from proposal to publication. As a first-time author, the process of publishing research was initially daunting, however, at each stage of the process, members of the UCL Press team were on hand to ensure that mini-panics and concerns did not erupt into a full-blown crisis. It seems fitting to me that I should finally get the chance to thank Chris, Alison and Jaimee by name for their help in a way that I could not do in my book (I blame the publishing deadline!)

Beyond the personal support the team offers before, during and after publication, I believe that UCL Press’s new model of Open Access Publication is something that all academics should welcome. Looking back on a blog I wrote in 2016, I remain as convinced now as I was then that UCL Press’s commitment to freely accessible, innovative, world-leading publications is something that will revolutionise academic publishing. Hopefully more universities and presses will see the benefit of making new knowledge available to all and providing young scholars with a path to publication. From a personal perspective, the opportunity to publish my work in both Open Access and low-cost hard copies has allowed my ideas to spread much further and faster than they would have done with a traditional academic publishing model. In a time when academic quality is often measured by metrics and statistics, being able to demonstrate that my work has been viewed around the world in sizable numbers is a significant advantage. As more universities and funding bodies require research to appear in an Open Access format, to have a book published by UCL Press that fulfils these requirements is also enormously beneficial (having a ‘free book’ is also a pretty useful thing at conferences too!)

It is, I think, not often that such ambitious projects can provide both practical results and remain focused on providing a personal service, which can ensure that new research and researchers find their voice. I hope that I can be part of this in the future and contribute towards the next 1,000,000 downloads.

Author Bio

Nick Piercey is a Post-Doctoral Research Associate in Sport History in the Department of Exercise and Sports Science at Manchester Metropolitan University and an Honorary Research Associate in UCL’s Department of Dutch in the UCL School of European Languages, Culture & Society.

New open access books for June 2018

AlisonFox15 June 2018

June brings adventuring archaeologists, cattle herders and a fascinating look into the British Library’s collection of Canadian photography.

Knowledge Sovereignty Among African Cattle Herders (20th June) argues that indigenous knowledge can be viewed as a stand-alone science, and that a community’s rights over ownership should be defended by government officials, development planners and policy makers, making the case for a celebration of the knowledge sovereignty of pastoralist communities. It’s a fascinating argument, informed by Zeremariam Fre’s experiences as the founding director and former head of regional NGO, the Pastoral and Environmental Network in the Horn of Africa (PENHA).

Amara Thornton’s Archaeologists in Print (25th June) has received one of the best endorsements we’ve ever read.  Dr Samantha Rayner, Dirctor of the UCL Centre for Publishing said:

‘This beautifully written book will be valued by all kinds of readers: you don’t need to be an archaeologist to enjoy the contents, which take you through different publishing histories of archaeological texts and the authors who wrote them. From the productive partnership of travel guide with archaeological interest, to the women who feature so often in the history of archaeological publishing, via closer analysis of the impact of John Murray, Macmillan and Co, and Penguin, this volume excavates layers of fascinating facts that reveal much of the wider culture of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The prose is clear and the stories compulsive: Thornton brings to life a cast of people whose passion for their profession lives again in these pages.

Warning: the final chapter, on Archaeological Fictions, will fill your to-be-read list with stacks of new titles to investigate!  This is a highly readable, accessible exploration into the dynamic relationships between academic authors, publishers, and readers. It is, in addition, an exemplar of how academic research can attract a wide general readership, as well as a more specialised one: a stellar combination of rigorous scholarship with lucid, pacy prose. Highly recommended!’

Finally, Canada in the Frame (18 June) explores a wonderful photographic collection held at the British Library that offers a unique view of late nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century Canada. The collection, which contains in excess of 4,500 images, taken between 1895 and 1923, covers a dynamic period in Canada’s national history and provides a variety of views of its landscapes, developing urban areas and peoples.

Written by Philip Hatfield,  Head of the Eccles Centre for American Studies and former Curator for Canadian and Caribbean Collections at the British Library , the book asks key questions about what it shows contemporary viewers of Canada and its photographic history, and about the peculiar view these photographs offer of a former part of the British Empire in a post-colonial age, viewed from the old ‘Heart of Empire’. Case studies are included on subjects such as urban centres, railroads and migration, which analyse the complex ways in which photographers approached their subjects, in the context of the relationship between Canada, the British Empire and photography.

Sri Lanka? A book on Sri Lankan history?

AlisonFox12 June 2018

Today’s guest post is by Zoltán Biedermann, editor of Sri Lanka at the Crossroads of History and Senior Lecturer and Head of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies at UCL.

and is part of a special series to celebrate UCL Press reaching one million downloads.

Sri Lanka? A book on Sri Lankan history? How many copies would that ever sell? I imagine that’s what people thought when I first spoke about the idea of publishing a collection of articles on Sri Lankan history – not the kind of British imperial, post-1800, or even post-colonial material that tends to find an audience in UK academia, but pre-modern themes, medieval, even ancient, history. My co-editor (Alan Strathern from Oxford) and I felt hapless.

We obviously thought that a big university press would be great, but we also realized how that might produce a rather pricey book that one of our main target audiences – students and academics in Sri Lanka – would never be able to afford. The kind of book that typically sells about 100-200 copies worldwide over a period of five years. We had both been there before with earlier projects. And then UCL Press appeared.

First we thought: how odd, a new press we had never heard of before. Someone told us that it existed a long time ago, and was just being resuscitated – not the most appealing narrative. Someone else told us not to bother, since new presses appear all the time, and producing books with them often results in failure. I still thought to myself: what harm can it do to contact the colleagues?

Lara Speicher came over for a chat, and suddenly I felt this might be going somewhere. Lara was calm but encouraging, professional but also warm and ready to embrace our quirky idea. Over at Oxford, Alan said why not… and so we began to move forward, slowly at first, as our authors were still finishing their contributions… and then more swiftly, as the UCL Press team read the material, sent it out for reviews, drafted a contract, held our hands as we did some more editing, and finally sent the manuscript into production. The copyediting was swift and professional. The designers did a great job not just with our numerous images, but also with difficult diacritics used to render South Asian scripts into our own. I cannot quite remember the exact timeline – I think that’s the kind of thing one tends to forget – but I do have a distinct recollection of that magic moment in 2017: when I suddenly held a beautiful paper copy of our volume in my hands and was able to see the same thing as a PDF online. The rest is history, as they say.

In less than a year, we have had over 5,000 downloads worldwide. Colleagues and students in Sri Lanka, who could never have afforded the book has it been printed by a traditional UK university press, have had instant free access to it even in remote locations. We have held two launch events here in London and are having another one in Colombo in July 2018. It’s been a long journey with a very happy ending – and who knows how many more people we will reach over the next few years?

Download Sri Lanka at the Crossroads of History free here.

Futures of academic publishing

AlisonFox5 June 2018

Today’s guest post is by Ilan Kelman, from UCL’s Institute for Global Health and Institute for Risk & Disaster Reduction, editor of Arcticness: Power and Voice from the North, and is part of a special series to celebrate UCL Press reaching one million downloads. 

Are the days over of roaming the dusty library shelves for sombre articles by world-renowned-but-never-seen scientific figures? Now, you can sit over ten kilometres up on an intercontinental flight downloading PDFs. Or seek the face of a prominent name through an image search or watching them lecture online.

No more must you queue at conferences to harangue them. On the same flight, or from your phone at home, drop them an email or social media message and skype across time zones.

Then, login to google docs from different hemispheres to co-author in real-time. Or use track changes and comments to edit with colleagues whom you have never met or spoken to.

Academic publishing is changing. New media and new ways of accessing media permeate science. With publishers, we can and should explore what could work or fall flat–while never diminishing world-renowned, cutting-edge, innovative science.

UCL Press already pursues personalisable and interactive PDFs. Images have long been part of manuscripts. Electronic publishing permits audio clips, videos, spreadsheets, GIS files, and other formats as embedded or supplementary material.

Patents and legislation are publication formats which academics can write and which are effectively peer-reviewed. Fine and performing arts accept non-written forms for academic credit, whether a composition, a performance, a painting, or a sculpture.

All disciplines should adopt similar approaches and beyond. Rather than being within, or supplemental to, a publication, different forms and formats could be the peer-reviewed academic publication.

A five-minute video of original choreography could express the islandness and urbanity of London or Bangkok as island cities. A dynamic holograph could illustrate decision-making under climate change. A computer programme could provide an online display which automatically collects, processes, and analyses real-time air pollution data.

Any such submission would have to be rigorously peer reviewed, as with papers, chapters, and books. The review process might require as much creativity and open-mindedness as the piece under review.

Other options require careful thought and implementation. Could material submitted for peer review, and peer-review processes, be crowdsourced with anyone contributing, as with wikis? Determining authorship could be challenging, but perhaps no more so than a paper for which the list of 5,154 authors is longer than the manuscript.

With a New Zealand river being granted some legal rights similar to human beings, could environmental features or processes be scientific co-authors? Isaac Asimov’s fiction writings set the stage for robots and other machines to be considered as peer-reviewed outputs and/or authors on them.

Nothing here mean eschewing the lengthy, erudite article or book with humdrum section headings. Nothing here means dismantling libraries or recycling the paper-based journals. It simply means different approaches, forms, and formats complementing and supplementing, not displacing, long-accepted scientific publication outputs.

We must continue standard approaches. We must also embrace and create futures of academic publishing without compromising scientific quality.

We can be creative, innovative, modern, and engaging without losing the positive aspects of what we have. All futures bring forward needed elements of the past.