The First Six Months of UCL Press

Posted on December 20, 2015 by Alison Fox

The six months since the launch of UCL Press have been extremely busy. During this time, UCL Press has managed to launch eight open access books, two journals and managed an extremely successful Open Access conference with over 120 delegates (with assistance from UCL Open Access and UCL Discovery). The UCL Press team have also spoken at a number of events- Society for Young Publishers conference, Academic Book of the Future projects showcase evening at the British Library and the Futurebook conference, to name but a few- and contributed articles about the press to UKSG enews andInsights.

Lisa Jardine

We were also deeply saddened to hear of the death of Lisa Jardine, Professor of Renaissance Studies, Director of the Centre for Editing Lives and Letters, and author of UCL Press’ inaugural title, Temptation in the Archives. Professor Jardine was a distinguished scholar, and we are honoured to have published her final work.


The eight UCL Press books have managed to achieve in excess of 9500 open access downloads from over 100 countries. Titles published so far are varied and include:

We’re delighted to announce that our Spring list will include a number of titles from the Why We Post project, an ground breaking ethnographic study of social media in 8 countries worldwide. The series will contain 11 books, but Spring 2015 include How the World Changed Social MediaSocial Media in an English Village, and Social Media in Southeast Turkey. The project’s output will also include UCL’s first MOOC (via Futurelearn), and a website focusing on the project’s findings. To keep up-to-date on UCL Press activities, visit our website or follow us on Twitter @uclpress


Journals currently published by UCL Press include Architecture_MPS(Architecture Media Politics Society) which addresses the growing interest in the social and political interpretation of the built environment from a multi-disciplinary perspective and London Journal of Canadian Studies, an interdisciplinary journal specialising in Canadian history, politics and society. From early 2016, our rapidly growing journals programme will also include Jewish Historical Studies: Transitions of the Jewish Historical Society of England, which has been published since 1831.

Call for proposals

Spotlights series

Proposals for short monographs are invited from UCL authors wishing to make new or defining elements of their work accessible to a wide audience. The series will provide a responsive forum for researchers to share key developments in their discipline and reach across disciplinary boundaries. The series also aims to support a diverse range of approaches to undertaking research and writing it. We welcome proposals for books of 35,000 to 45,000 words from all disciplines that share any of these aims. The books will be published free in a digital Open Access form, and will also be available to buy in print at an affordable price.

Contact: Chris Penfold, Commissioning Editor, UCL Press


The Men’s Union Reading Room

The AHRC/British Library Academic Book of the Future Project invites submissions for its BOOC (Book as Open Online Content), which will capture and publish outputs of the research project. The content will be published as a ‘live’ book on an innovative, online and open platform hosted by UCL Press.

Authors are welcome to discuss any aspect of academic publishing and its future; for example, peer review, the role of the editor, the academic bookshop of the future, copyright, libraries, open access, digital publishing and technology. Suitable content will undergo peer review before being published.

Formats may include, but are not limited to, videos, blogs, podcasts, short monographs and articles, and authors are invited from all areas of the academic publishing and bookselling communities. The BOOC will be launched in Spring 2016 and new content will be added throughout the year.

Contact: Sam Rayner, Principal Investigator of the Academic Book of the Future Project with abstracts of proposed content (500 word max.).

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A Tribute to Lisa Jardine (12 April 1944–25 October 2015)

Posted on October 26, 2015 by Alison Fox

Today's guest post, which celebrates the life and legacy of the late Lisa Jardine, is written by Lara Speicher, UCL Press Publishing Manager. 

When UCL Press sent out its first, tentative call for proposals in early 2014 – a completely new university press operating a brave open access business model – I could not have been more surprised when Lisa Jardine emailed me, about ten minutes after the call went to all staff desks, to say she had a complete manuscript she wanted to publish with us. Of course, I was aware that theCentre for Editing Lives and Letters (CELL), of which she was the director, was at UCL, and I had hoped at some future date to meet her. But never in my wildest dreams did I think that she would publish something with us.

Her reasons for choosing UCL Press were that she wanted to give something back to UCL, which had given CELL a home when it was transferred from Queen Mary, University of London in 2012, and that she actively wanted to demonstrate her support for open access publishing. Her choice sent a clear message – she was interested not in royalties but in readership, and she believed that scholarly research should, morally, be made available to all for free. It was a brave move, and it kick-started UCL Press in a way that few other scholars could have done.

The Press has since gone on to receive well over 100 book proposals in just over a year – I wonder if that would have been the case if she hadn’t chosen to publish with us. It was a pleasure to work with her – she was frank, charming, receptive to queries and suggestions, and professional to the end. During the course of production of the book she told me that she might not be as fast at proof checking or responding to queries as she normally was because she was having treatment for cancer – she never did miss a deadline. But by that time we had set the date for the official launch party of UCL Press at which she was due to speak as our inaugural author. I wondered if she would be well enough to make it but she assured me that she wouldn’t miss it for the world and that she had scheduled other arrangements around it to ensure she could come. And she did make it, and spoke passionately to a crowded room about her belief in the rights of everyone to have free access to scholarly research outputs. She even had cupcakes made specially for the guests, with the title of her book iced on them:Temptation in the Archives.

The book, about Anglo-Dutch relations, received a glowing review in THE, in which the Dutch scholar Henriette Louwerse praised Jardine’s ‘delicious storytelling’, and highlighted the ‘refreshingly personal’ way that Jardine ‘describes the process of archive work not simply the outcome.’ We feel immensely privileged to have worked with Lisa, to have had her support in UCL Press’s early days, and we pass on our sincerest condolences to her family.

Lara Speicher, Publishing Manager, UCL Press

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Digital Technologies in Academic Publishing: Thoughts of a Journal Managing Editor

Posted on October 13, 2015 by Alison Fox

Today's guest post is by Diana Richards, outgoing Managing Editor of the UCL Journal of Law and Jurisprudence.

I have just completed my year mandate as the managing editor of the UCL Journal of Law and Jurisprudence. Those who know me are aware that I dip my toes both in academia and the tech startup world. And that gives me a rather unusual perspective on both. If one would ask “What were the two things that made you most proud at the journal?” I would simply say switching to open access and developing a social media presence. Both bring the powers of the digital in the service of research, making it faster, more relevant, and more connected to the outside world.

The switch to open access was made in collaboration with UCL Press, dubbed the first fully open-access university press in the UK. We implemented the Open Journal Systems (OJS), which means the submission, editing and publishing processes are now transparent, scalable, and above all else, incredibly quick. We are done anonymising manuscripts, sending dozens of e-mails and docs back and forth, or doing DTP. The work of the academic editor or the reviewers’ has suddenly been simplified and all that could be automated is now automated. We receive dozens of submissions per month now, and we are not snowed under anymore. We are accepting less than a third and keeping the journal high quality.

But the advantage of OJS was not just for us, on the inside. This sounds grand, but it is a great progress for the scientific advancement of knowledge. With this kind of system, it does not take years to get an article published. The slow and cumbersome review process often made research and publications obsolete. This is now a story of the past. It now takes just a few months from start to finish. But what’s even more important, it is open access. Anyone can read it. You don’t have to be in education or pay thousands of pounds for access. You can do so for free, from the first second of it being published by us.

For my clients in the London tech startup environment, it takes me two months to conduct dozens of qualitative interviews and to get quantitative data on millions of users. And it takes me a few days to prepare and present a report. In academia, that kind of research could take half a decade to gather and present to the public. This is completely unacceptable and needs to change. Some visionary initiatives, like, sought to change this. We did it too, at a smaller level, but it works. And it feels damn good.

In addition to open access, using social media to communicate with our audiences only contributed even more to bringing academic research in the now. We are among the most active UK academic journals on Facebook and Twitter, and we used that to keep everyone posted on the latest research available.

With open access and social media, the academic publishing world is changing. This is our chance as researchers to become relevant again, by regaining dynamism.

About the Author

Diana Richards is currently finishing a doctorate at UCL Laws and has been consulting in the digital sector since 2010. More info at The UCL Journal of Law and Jurisprudence can be found online at

This post was originally posted in UCL Press news in October 2015.

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The Museum, The Centenary, The Book

Posted on June 04, 2015 by Alison Fox

Today’s guest post is written by Alice Stevenson, Curator of the Petrie Museum of Egyptian and Sudanese Archaeology.

About a year ago, it dawned on the staff of UCL’s Petrie Museum that the centenary of our opening was not far off. To mark the occasion the team decided that a souvenir publication would be fitting tribute for such an internationally renowned collection. Time to produce such a book, however, was short. Fortunately, UCL Press received the proposal positively and the scramble to pull together the volume began.

With upwards of 80,000 objects in the collection, more than a century of important discoveries and thousands of years of history to engage with, finding suitable content wasn’t hard. Deciding what could fit into 120 pages was. All that we could do was sketch out the contours of the museum’s holdings, from the Stone Age axes to the medieval and Islamic artefacts, and from the smallest trinkets to the largest monuments. We also wanted to challenge assumptions about the nature of the collection because it is far broader than the term ‘Egyptian archaeology’ might popularly suggest: there are objects from Sudan, Korea, China, Greece, Palestine, Syria, India and Iraq for instance. Additionally, we sought to showcase the unusual: artefacts made from extra-terrestrial materials, objects fished out from dark, flooded burial chambers and long-lost things rediscovered in unlikely places.

Image from Petrie book

What really drove the story-telling, however, were the characters whose lives became entangled with the museum’s history. They include the adventurous Flinders Petrie, a man who Lawrence of Arabia once described as ‘enormous fun’ and who Howard Carter credited as turning him into a true excavator; Margaret Murray, an Egyptology lecturer at UCL and a significant influence on the development of Wicca; Gertrude Caton-Thompson, a pioneering archaeologist who went on to prove that Great Zimbabwe was the work of indigenous Africans; and Ali Suefi, Flinders Petrie’s Egyptian right-hand man and discoverer of many of the most prized objects in the museum.

To even attempt to do justice to this eclectic assemblage and history requires many voices and a range of expertise. It is therefore thanks to all of our contributors for swiftly penning their sections, to UCL Press and Media Services for their professionalism and to the Friends of the Petrie Museum for financial support, that this publication has come together in such good shape and on such a tight deadline. And with over 1300 Open Access downloads in the first week, we’re off to a great start!

Alice Stevenson, Curator, The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology

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