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Training for the publishing world needs to be research-led, says UCL academic

Publication date: Mar 3, 2006 9:00:00 AM

UCL (University College London) is launching a Centre for Publishing on 3rd March 2006 that will offer the first research-driven MA and aims to be the only independent policy-led research body in publishing. The Centre, which is located in Bloomsbury, has been injected with funds of £300,000 from the Provost, Professor Malcolm Grant’s Strategic Initiatives Fund.

Professor David Nicholas, Director of the UCL School of Library, Archive and Information Studies (SLAIS), who is setting up the UCL Centre for Publishing, said: “UCL is the first top ten research university to invest in communicating with and influencing the publishing world.”

The Centre has strong academic credentials because it is offering research-led teaching for the first time in the UK and it will only teach at the postgraduate level. The MA starts in September 2007.

Professor Nicholas said: “Most publishing teaching is provided by people who have left the industry. They are able to teach what has been done before but they are not informed by research and do not always understand what is going on at the cutting edge of their industries. Research can assist in the understanding of what’s going to happen in the publishing world so that our students are best equipped to handle the massive fluxes caused by digital publishing.”

The Centre has been informed by major publishers and aims to be an all-round provider of independent research and graduates who are trained to understand the challenges of digitisation in the publishing world.

Michael Mabe, Director of Academic Relations at Elsevier, said: “The scholarly side of publishing has been ill-served in terms of research. The little there’s been has had an agenda, so a policy-led, independent and evidence-based research centre will be applauded by the publishing world.”

Graham Taylor, Director of Educational, Academic and Professional Publishing at the Publisher’s Association, said: “With so much flux and change in the publishing world, there is a demand for research. There is a lot of trial and error going on to find out what people want because customer behaviour patterns are changing. We need more research input and less experimentation to find out what’s really happening with ebooks, with elearning and academic journals. Why do journals still publish a paper copy of their journals when they’re largely used online? Why is so much invested in elearning when most initiatives so far have been at best a disappointment and at worst a massive failure?”

Some research is already under way, providing a solid research foundation for the Centre, such as CIBER (http://www.ucl.ac.uk/ciber/), the largest University-based digital publishing research group in the UK, which has generated more than £1 million in research income already. In addition, Emerald, which publishes more than 160 journal titles in the fields of management, information science and engineering, is providing £4,000 towards a pilot study of the use of e- books.

Professor Nicholas said: “Publishing influences many areas of public life - from health to transport to architecture. So why, when digital publishing is having such a huge impact on the academic world itself, have academics shied away from researching its impacts?”

Notes for Editors:
1. The launch of the UCL Publishing Centre will take place on 3rd March at 17.30 at The Haldane Room, UCL Main Building, Gower Street, WC1E 6BT

2. A website for the publishing world will be launched at the event and available from 3rd March at http://www.publishing.ucl.ac.uk/

3. Richard Charkin, CEO of Macmillan will launch the event which is due to be attended by Bob Campbell, President, Blackwell Publishing; David Brown, Head of Scholarly Communications and Innovation Support, The British Library; Bill Russell, Director - Academic Market, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

4. For further information, to attend the event, for photos or interviews please contact Alex Brew at UCL press office on 020 7679 9726 or a.brew@ucl.ac.uk.