Creating the Future of Academic Publishing – Part 2

In advance of Emerald’s Academic Book Week event on 23 January, our third key speaker, Katharine Reeve, discusses some of the key questions around academic publishing and the research ecosystem.

Image: Katharine Reeve.Katharine Reeve is an award-winning non-fiction author, Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and Course Leader of the BA Publishing degree at Bath Spa University. She spent fifteen years working as a publisher of non-fiction books. Katharine is the author of a report on the Role of the Editor (Academic Book of the Future report, 2016), and project lead and author of a Cultural and Creative Strategy for Bath and North East Somerset Council (2015). She is Director of Publishing Futures Lab and co-Director of an Italian Digital Art and Design book series for the University of Parma archive-museum, CSAC.

What do you consider to be the major hurdle for academic publishing to overcome in the next 5 years?

For Arts and Humanities publishing: confusion around Open Access policy and misconceptions about the role and expertise of the publisher and hasty policy-making. Publishers need to be far more explicit about their added value; they need to enhance their added value – which probably means enabling an expanded creative, collaborative relationship between Commissioning Editors and authors. Commissioning Editors are academic publishing’s public face and under-used secret weapon!

As an academic, how do you see the role of the publisher changing?

Publishers (through their Commissioning Editors) have immense expertise and a unique overview of publishing in particular fields. This can be harnessed for mutual benefit in guiding academic authors through the range of traditional print and digital formats which can be used to build their public and academic profiles and reputations.

In your opinion, what factors should be considered when measuring the impact of a piece of research? Is this currently the case?

Key is the contribution to knowledge: is this an original piece of work in terms of material/ sources, critical/theoretical approach or perhaps in terms of the way in which it is disseminated? The work should be important and influential enough to stand the test of time.

What advice would you give to young researchers and academics, embarking on their careers over the next few years?

Be strategic and focus. There are so many challenges to face with ever-varying criteria for REF, new TEF and so forth. that research time is inevitably squeezed. The short REF cycle makes it difficult to build up sufficient original research for the traditional "big book" which makes your name. But I would argue for academics being given the time and space to do this for the benefit of their professional development, institutional reputation and our collective knowledge.

How do you think that innovative publishers can complement the researchers of the future in new ways?

Give Commissioning Editors – creative powerhouses in publishing – access to digital technology and the many forms of existing and emerging communication. They are best placed to work with authors to develop publications which work creatively, financially, and for specific audiences. Editors can work with marketing to develop mini-brands around authors to promote them to academic and public audiences.

It is heartening to see a revival of university presses in the UK – and interesting to see presses such as UCL taking an OA approach. This requires institutional funding, however, so it remains to be seen whether or not this is sustainable – I hope it is, as it adds to the ecosystem of rigorously peer-reviewed publishing.

To read the thoughts of our other speakers, John Holmwood and Martin Paul Eve, go to our earlier “Creating the Future of Academic Publishing” blog post.

If you would like to join us at the "Creating the Future of Academic Publishing" event, you can register for free.