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An open letter from the Editor-in-Chief of UCL Open: Environment

AlisonFox31 January 2019

Today’s guest post is by Prof Dan Osborn, Editor-in-Chief of UCL Open: Environment, which opens for submissions today. It originally appeared here.

UCL Open: Environment – why are we doing this?

Very shortly humanity needs to begin solving the planetary problems caused by humanity’s activities and moving towards making the world a better place for all its citizens. 10 billion people can’t be provided with the energy, water and food they need without such an effort.

For example, by 2020 or soon thereafter, emissions of greenhouse gases must peak if the impacts of climate change are to be kept in reasonable check. Failure to successfully tackle problems like climate change or to deal with inequalities that mean that there is plenty, or even over-supply, in one place and scarcity in another could lead to social, economic and environmental problems that will put sustainable development out of reach.

Tackling issues like climate change is a fundamentally multidisciplinary exercise. To succeed it will need long-term observation and understanding of planetary processes, modelling and projections into the future, risk assessment and engineering solutions (including biological engineering) that will have to include the public acceptability of new technologies built in from the start. In all likelihood it will need to invent new financial and economic approaches to help those communities and nations that find themselves cast in the role of climate victims (e.g. those living in vulnerable communities in coastal areas). It might even, if we have to resort to geoengineering the planet or engineering plants to enhance the rate of photosynthesis, be forced to ask what the right level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere really is. That would pose legal and ethical and moral questions that there would not be easy agreement on. Just think how difficult it has been to get nations to agree on just emission reductions and ways of measuring that though the processes of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

No one discipline is going to tackle this kind of problem. Neither is any one discipline going to make the world a better place. And making the world a better place is an aim that it is too easy to lose sight of when all around there are problems that are so pressing. It is an aim that the academic community must not forget or, by default, leave solely in the hands of the global economy or global and national politics.

The knowledge and evidential material produced by the endeavour of academic institutions worldwide has a vital role to play in this process. Academic endeavour alone will not find the solutions that are needed but it can provide the knowledge and evidence that people need in order to make decisions and choices that will affect everybody. These decisions and choices cannot be based solely on what people believe to be the case; neither can they be based on or false information that has been reinforced through social media processes. Neither are they likely to be achieved in the current global political and economic climate if academia stands back from the dialogue. Of course once people have the knowledge they need to know how they can act and they need to feel empowered to do so and what benefits will result.

UCL Open: Environment aims to publish material relevant to making the world a better place and tackling the planetary problems brought about by human activity. It will not just publish academic papers but will engage in the dialogue about what we as a species do next. It will engage on the basis of knowledge and evidence. It will not seek to make people’s choices or decision’s for them but it hopes to become a source of respected information and a forum for discourse. It will try to publish material relevant to people’s lives as they live them in their communities as often as possible. It will invite input from decision-makers and policy analysts and is open to the idea that research plans and programmes could use the journal to publish evaluations of progress measured against original aims and objectives as we need some way of moving multi-disciplinary efforts forward and those kinds of evaluations are one way of doing this.

UCL Open: Environment will have a distinctive approach to accepting articles. There will be a two-stage processes. First, submitted articles will be considered by members of the editorial team and if within the scope of the journal and compliant with the journal’s policies then the article will move to a pre-print server. This is not publication in the journal. This will merely open the article to comment by referees. If an article on the pre-print server is thought suitable by referees then the article will be considered further by the editorial board and the presumption is that such an article will then be formally published in the journal and assigned page numbers. It is hoped that papers will be multidisciplinary in nature and that the double jeopardy that has haunted this area of endeavour for many decades can be largely avoided. Only submissions of good quality and well balanced articles and considered refereeing will make that possible.

I hope you can join me in wishing UCL Open: Environment to succeed in what it is setting out to do, in short:

  • Help to make the world a better place;
  • Publish knowledge and evidence needed to tackle the planetary problems caused by human activity;
  • Encourage the use of evidence in making decisions at every level;
  • Facilitate dialogue that engages people in their communities in what kind of world they would like to see.

Prof Dan Osborn
Editor-in-Chief, UCL Open: Environment

New open access books for January 2019

AlisonFox4 January 2019

We’re starting the year with a bang: two must-read new open access books.

Our first publication of 2019 is Botticelli Past and Present, a co-publication with the V&A. Featuring contributions from leading voices in art history,  this book enagges with the significant and continued debate about the artist. Comprising four thematic parts, spanning four centuries of Botticelli’s artistic fame and reception from the fifteenth century. Each part comprises a number of essays and includes a short introduction which positions them within the wider scholarly literature on Botticelli. The parts are organised chronologically beginning with discussion of the artist and his working practice in his own time, moving onto the progressive rediscovery of his work from the late eighteenth to the turn of the twentieth century, through to his enduring impact on contemporary art and design. Expertly written by researchers and eminent art historians and richly illustrated throughout, the broad range of essays in this book make a valuable contribution to Botticelli studies.

Next up is a must-read of anyone interested in archaeology, egyptology, museums or ancient history: Scattered Finds by former Petrie Museum curator Alice Stevenson. It tells the fascinating story of how, between the 1880s and 1980s, British excavations at locations across Egypt resulted in the discovery of hundreds of thousands of ancient objects that were subsequently sent to some 350 institutions worldwide. These finds included unique discoveries at iconic sites such as the tombs of ancient Egypt’s first rulers at Abydos, Akhenaten and Nefertiti’s city of Tell el-Amarna and rich Roman Era burials in the Fayum.

Scattered Finds explores the politics, personalities and social histories that linked fieldwork in Egypt with the varied organizations around the world that received finds. Case studies range from Victorian municipal museums and women’s suffrage campaigns in the UK, to the development of some of the USA’s largest institutions, and from university museums in Japan to new institutions in post-independence Ghana. By juxtaposing a diversity of sites for the reception of Egyptian cultural heritage over the period of a century, Alice Stevenson presents new ideas about the development of archaeology, museums and the construction of Egyptian heritage. She also addresses the legacy of these practices, raises questions about the nature of the authority over such heritage today, and argues for a stronger ethical commitment to its stewardship.

 As always, they can be downloaded from our website as soon as they publish. Happy reading!

New open access books for December 2019

AlisonFox1 December 2018

This month brings only one new title: but it’s a cracker!

How and Why to Read and Create Children’s Digital Books outlines effective ways of using digital books in early years and primary classrooms, and specifies the educational potential of using digital books and apps in physical spaces and virtual communities. With a particular focus on apps and personalised reading, Natalia Kucirkova combines theory and practice to argue that personalised reading is only truly personalised when it is created or co-created by reading communities.

Divided into two parts, Part I suggests criteria to evaluate the educational quality of digital books and practical strategies for their use in the classroom. Specific attention is paid to the ways in which digital books can support individual children’s strengths and difficulties, digital literacies, language and communication skills. Part II explores digital books created by children, their caregivers, teachers and librarians, and Kucirkova also offers insights into how smart toys, tangibles and augmented/virtual reality tools can enrich children’s reading for pleasure.

How and Why to Read and Create Children’s Digital Books is of interest to an international readership ranging from trainee or established teachers to MA level students and researchers, as well as designers, librarians and publishers. All are inspired to approach children’s reading on and with screens with an agentic perspective of creating and sharing.

 As always, it can be downloaded from our website as soon as it publishes. Happy reading!

New open access books for November 2018

AlisonFox1 November 2018

A wonderful mix of archaeology, planning, literature, food and water welcomes in November!

Ethics and Aesthetics of Translation: Exploring the Works of Atxaga, Kundera and Semprún  is our first title this month. The book engages with translation, in both theory and practice, as part of an interrogation of ethical as well as political thought in the work of three bilingual European authors: Bernardo Atxaga, Milan Kundera and Jorge Semprún. In approaching the work of these authors, the book draws upon the approaches to translation offered by Benjamin, Derrida, Ricœur and Deleuze to highlight a broad set of ethical questions, focused upon the limitations of the monolingual and the democratic possibilities of linguistic plurality; upon our innate desire to translate difference into similarity; and upon the ways in which translation responds to the challenges of individual and collective remembrance.

Next up is Integrating Food into Urban Planning, a co-publication with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). It’s a fascinating book that examines a crucial and emerging topic: the integration of food into urban planning is a crucial and emerging topic. Urban planners, alongside the local and regional authorities that have traditionally been less engaged in food-related issues, are now asked to take a central and active part in understanding how food is produced, processed, packaged, transported, marketed, consumed, disposed of and recycled in our cities.

By studying and comparing cities of different sizes, from both the Global North and South, in developed and developing regions, the contributors collectively argue for the importance and circulation of global knowledge rooted in local food planning practices, programmes and policies. If you liked Robert Biel’s book Sustainable Food Systems: The Role of the City, this one is well worth a  look!

Our final book of the month is Water Societies and Technologies from the Past and Present. We may think that the challenges that modern societies face with water, in terms of both quantity and quality are unique, but many of these challenges have already existed in the past.

This book, with specific focus on Asia,  seeks to highlight the issues that emerge or re-emerge across different societies and periods, and asks what they can tell us about water sustainability. Incorporating cutting-edge research and pioneering field surveys on past and present water management practices, the interdisciplinary contributors together identify how societies managed water resource challenges and utilized water in ways that allowed them to evolve, persist, or drastically alter their environment.

 As always, they can be downloaded from our website as soon as they publish, and we love to hear your feedback and thoughts. Happy reading!

Book Launch: Archaeologists in Print by Amara Thornton

AlisonFox3 October 2018

Date: 18th October 2018
Time:18:00-20:00
Location: The Petrie Museum, Malet Place, London WC1E 6BT
Register to attend: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/event-ticketing/booking?ev=18026

Join us for an evening at the Petrie Museum where author Dr Amara Thornton will launch her new book, Archaeologists in Print: Publishing for the People (UCL Press),  looking at the history of popular publishing in archaeology in the 19th and 20th centuries. In particular, there will be an opportunity to find out more about the women who were influential in shaping the popularity and interest in archaeology that continues today.

Paperback copies of the book will be available for sale on the evening and a special price of £15 (RRP £20). It is also available to purchase in hardback (£40) or download for free here.

New Open Access Books for October 2018

AlisonFox1 October 2018

October brings us two more exciting books to read as the evenings draw in.

First up, publishing on October 10, is Being Modern: The Cultural Impact of Science in the Early Twentieth Century

In the early decades of the twentieth century, engagement with science was commonly used as an emblem of modernity. This phenomenon is now attracting increasing attention in different historical specialities. Being Modern builds on this recent scholarly interest to explore engagement with science across culture from the end of the nineteenth century to approximately 1940.

Addressing the breadth of cultural forms in Britain and the western world from the architecture of Le Corbusier to working class British science fiction, Being Modern paints a rich picture. Seventeen distinguished contributors from a range of fields including the cultural study of science and technology, art and architecture, English culture and literature examine the issues involved. The book will be a valuable resource for students, and a spur to scholars to further examination of culture as an interconnected web of which science is a critical part, and to supersede such tired formulations as ‘Science and culture’.

Citizen Science: Innovation in Open Science, Society and Policy publishes just in time for open access week.

Citizen science, the active participation of the public in scientific research projects, is a rapidly expanding field in open science and open innovation. It provides an integrated model of public knowledge production and engagement with science. As a growing worldwide phenomenon, it is invigorated by evolving new technologies that connect people easily and effectively with the scientific community. Catalysed by citizens’ wishes to be actively involved in scientific processes, as a result of recent societal trends, it also offers contributions to the rise in tertiary education. In addition, citizen science provides a valuable tool for citizens to play a more active role in sustainable development.

This book identifies and explains the role of citizen science within innovation in science and society, and as a vibrant and productive science-policy interface. The scope of this volume is global, geared towards identifying solutions and lessons to be applied across science, practice and policy. The chapters consider the role of citizen science in the context of the wider agenda of open science and open innovation, and discuss progress towards responsible research and innovation, two of the most critical aspects of science today.

As always, they can be downloaded from our website as soon as they publish. Happy reading!

Why I wrote… Mapping Society

Laura SVaughan24 September 2018

Today’s guest post is by Professor Laura Vaughan, author of Mapping Society (published today), editor of Suburban Urbanities, and Professor of Urban Form and Society at the prestigious Bartlett School of Architecture.

 

The inception of Mapping Society was over quarter of a century ago, whilst sitting in a seminar room at UCL while studying for my Master’s in Advanced Architectural Studies and seeing Charles Booth’s maps of poverty. The period of the early 1990s was a time when Bill Hillier, the founder of the field of space syntax, was developing his conception of the city as a ‘movement economy’. By identifying a phenomenon of ‘marginal separation by linear integration’, Hillier was using the historical map not only as a source of information on how cities worked in the past, but also as source of inspiration for building a broad theory of how cities work in general.

A few months after my first introduction to the Booth map I was browsing in the Hebrew and Jewish Studies section of UCL library and came across a fragile book from 1901, with an even more fragile map inside: the map of Jewish East London, 1899. Looking at the way the map, with its shadings of blue from light to dark, was used to accentuate the density of Jewish immigrant settlement in the area, immediately struck me as showing some fundamental spatial regularities beyond simply being a ghetto – as it was known then.

In fact, this book reflects two decades of enquiry into the spatial nature of society, with a specific focus on the detailed patterning of social patterns as these are laid out in historical maps. Going beyond placing the data on the map to a deeper analysis of the geographical patterning of the data allows the researcher to pose a variety of questions: regarding the spatial character of the urban setting, regarding whether social data of a single type have spatial characteristics in common, and – in general – to control for spatial effects when analysing social patterns.

For me, the Booth maps have become the quintessential starting point when exploring the relationship between the spatial organisation of cities and how societies take shape over time. This book does so by taking maps of social statistics and developing a close reading of the maps themselves as well as the context within which they were created. A side product of this inquiry has been the discovery of the extent to which social cartography is frequently used not only as a tool for communicating information on patterns of settlement, but also for other purposes: for propaganda, to collate evidence or to support scientific argumentation. The use of social maps as an analytical device is less prevalent and this book will show how a reading of the spatial patterns captured by such maps can reveal some fundamental rules about how cities work according to a specifically spatial logic of society.

Ultimately this book’s ambition is to demonstrate how an interdisciplinary reading of social maps can provide a richer understanding of how society and urban spatial systems interact with each other. Thus, phenomena such as segregation can only be fully understood once we take account of a wide variety of factors, including economic, political, social as well as spatial context – and all this in addition to the changes that cities and their inhabitants undergo over time.

New open access books for September 2018

AlisonFox12 September 2018

After a short Summer break, we have bumper crop of five titles to see us into the Autumn.

Mapping Society is a book we were excited about even before we saw the manuscript. Written by Professor Laura Vaughan (editor of Suburban Urbanities), Mapping Society traces the evolution of social cartography over the past two centuries and takes in everything from a rare map of yellow fever in eighteenth-century New York, to Charles Booth’s famous maps of poverty in nineteenth-century London, an Italian racial zoning map of early twentieth-century Asmara, to a map of wealth disparities in the banlieues of twenty-first-century Paris. The author examines maps of ethnic or religious difference, poverty, and health inequalities, demonstrating how they not only serve as historical records of social enquiry, but also constitute inscriptions of social patterns that have been etched deeply on the surface of cities.

The Impact of Migration on Poland asks how the international mobility of Polish citizens has intertwined with other influences to shape society, culture, politics and economics in contemporary Poland. Incredibly topical, this book will be important reading for anyone interested in the influence of migration on society, as well as students and scholars researching EU mobility, migration theory and methodology, and issues facing contemporary Europe.

Nanofibres in Drug Delivery aims to outline to new researchers in the field the utility of nanofibres in drug delivery, and to explain to them how to prepare fibres in the laboratory.

Finally, we have two additional titles in our urban studies list. The much-requested PDF version of Musical Cities publishes on 17th September, discussing why we should listen to urban rhythms in order to design more liveable and sustainable cities, before demonstrating how we can do so through various acoustic communication techniques.

Cities Made of Boundaries presents the theoretical foundation and concepts for a new social scientific urban morphological mapping method, Boundary Line Type (BLT) Mapping. Its vantage is a plea to establish a frame of reference for radically comparative urban studies positioned between geography and archaeology. Based in multidisciplinary social and spatial theory, a critical realist understanding of the boundaries that compose built space is operationalised by a mapping practice utilising Geographical Information Systems (GIS).

Happy reading!

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.

Brexit and the democratisation of knowledge

AlisonFox31 May 2018

Today’s guest post is by Benjamin Martill and Uta Staiger, editors of Brexit and Beyond: Rethinking the Futures of Europe, and is part of a special series to celebrate UCL Press reaching one million downloads. 

We started working on Brexit and Beyond in early 2017 when we realised there was a distinct gap in the market when it came to easily accessible yet scholarly works on Brexit. Full-length academic articles were often too lengthy and discipline-specific to appeal to the average reader. In any case, they take a rather long time to reach the market, such that by then the real world often has moved on. Nowhere more so than with Brexit! By contrast, the readily availabile opinion pieces and op-eds through which much of the ‘here and now’ of the Brexit debate took place lacked the rigour of academic works.

So we resolved to create a volume of short, accessible pieces on Brexit which would appeal to a general audience, while being informed by their authors’ long-standing scholarship. UCL Press embraced the idea with enthusiasm.

We also wanted to work with UCL Press because of the benefits of the open access model. Given the acrimony surrounding Britain’s changing relationship to Europe, we felt it was particularly important to bring rigorous discussion of the topic out of the academic ivory tower. To freely provide a volume with some of the biggest names in their field to students and interested citizens alike was, we believed, the easiest – and most direct – way to achieve this. The Brexit vote highlighted a yawning gap between academic debates and the concerns of many British citizens. Meanwhile, the social media ‘echo chambers’ have contributed to divided conversations and the polarisation of viewpoints. Breaking through these divisions and starting a shared conversation on the future of Europe was our aim with this volume.

UCL Press supported our book every step of the way. We had frequent meetings to discuss content, production and marketing, benefitting from the input of all the team members. The book itself came out in January and has been downloaded over 10,000 times in the past three months. What has been most heartening, though, is how pleased readers themselves have been about receiving their ‘free book’. One individual who approached us at our launch event in Brussels couldn’t believe – his words – that such a high quality product would be available for anyone to download. And, more pleasing still, he had sent copies to his friends and family. The hope is that, as more and more people engage with our contributors’ arguments, a greater number of citizens – of the UK and the EU – are brought into the detailed discussions we should be having after the referendum. Only in this way can we attempt to further the democratisation of knowledge. For facilitating these conversations – more and more every day – we are very grateful to the team at UCL Press.

Brexit and Beyond: Rethinking the Futures of Europe can be downloaded for free here.

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