UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies


HPSC3009 Science and the Publishing Industry

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“The history of publishing is the history of civilisation.”

Module description

The publishing industry is enormous. It shapes science communication in fundamental ways. This module investigates publishing. How does it work? How does it enable and shape science communication? The module covers a wide range of outputs: trade books, textbooks, peer review journals, and ancillary products. It examines topics every publisher needs to know about, as well as contexts key for interpreting trends. How does marketing and selling shape the industry? What careers are available in science publishing? In recent years, major changes in the industry have been nothing short of revolutionary: open access, print-on-demand, automated translations, tablet reading, and more. The module also will integrate key STS themes to the subject: how do they help us understand science publishing. The module will ask students to develop practical projects, including a book proposal, a product pitch, and a print-ready book manuscript, which could be published. They also will have opportunities to meet professionals in the industry.

We'll use these required books: 

  • Guthrie, Richard. 2011. Publishing: Principles and Practice (London: Sage). ISBN 978-1-84787-015-5. We've requested this book from Waterstones Gower Street. (If you shop at Waterstones, consider their Student Rewards scheme here.)
  • Thompson, John B. 2012. Merchants of Culture. 2nd edition (Cambridge: Polity). ISBN 978-0-74566-106-3. (I added this in Sep 2017 as it's a cracking good book for our subject.)

More about the module


Three items of coursework:

  • book proposal (60% - 3000 words) The aim is to produce a viable book proposal suitable for submission to a professional publisher.
  • book production (20% - 1500 words) The aim is to produce a full and complete book, ready for publication and sale. The body of the text will be provided, or you can propose a text of your own choice, within certain constraints. The rest of the production will be up to you.
  • presentation (20% - 5 minutes) The aim is to pitch your proposal to a commissioning editor - can you convince them to "buy" the book?

No examination


  • Term 1
  • view the timetable online (link)


  • 2017-18 syllabus (most recent offer) (pdf)

Module tutor

  • Professor Joe Cain