Publishing

Open Access Resources Available from Duke University Press

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It’s Open Access Week, a global opportunity for the academic and research community to continue to learn about the potential benefits of Open Access, to share what they’ve learned with colleagues, and to help inspire wider participation in helping to make Open Access a new norm in scholarship and research. Duke University Press offers a variety of books, journals, and online collections in an open access format. To learn more about why we consider participating in these initiatives so important, read an interview with our previous director Steve Cohn from last year’s Open Access Week. This year we’re pleased to share some of our open access offerings.

Books

Duke University Press participates in two open access programs to make some of our books available in an open access format: Knowledge Unlatched and TOME. Each year we release about a dozen books that are open access. You may be able to read these books online via your own library. You can also find some of them on Project MUSE, OAPEN, and on our own website. Recent books that are available in an open access format include The News at the Ends of the Earth by Hester Blum, Anti-Japan by Leo T. S. Ching, and The Fixer by Charles Piot. 

Journals

Duke University Press’s journals publishing program offers several open-access journals and e-resources:

coverimage1-1Critical Times: Interventions in Global Critical Theory, a new addition to our program, is an online journal sponsored by the International Consortium of Critical Theory Programs with the aim of foregrounding the form and global reach of contemporary critical theory.

Environmental Humanities draws humanities scholarship into conversation with natural and social sciences around significant environmental issues.

The Carlyle Letters Online provides access to an outstanding resource in Victorian literature, philosophy, and culture: the letters of Thomas and Jane Welsh Carlyle.

In addition, many introductions to Duke University Press humanities and social sciences journal issues are available for free at read.dukeupress.edu. We also offer several free or low-cost journal access options to libraries in eligible countries.

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Duke University Press and Cornell University Library also jointly manage Project Euclid, a not-for-profit hosting and publishing platform for the mathematics and statistics communities. About 75% of Project Euclid’s hosted content is open access.

Check out some of our previous blog posts for Open Access Week here.

What to Do about Reviewer #2: Advice for Handling a Difficult Peer Review

quality-in-peer-review_19It’s Peer Review Week,  global event celebrating the essential role that peer review plays in maintaining scholarly quality. We’re excited to share a guest post by Executive Editor Courtney Berger.

 

On a not-too-infrequent basis I see posts and memes in my social media feed denouncing the dastardly deeds of Reviewer #2—that querulous and impossible-to-please peer reviewer. I usually hover over the post, thinking that I might chime in with a bit of helpful advice. I am a book editor after all. Surely I can say something to help alleviate my friend’s experience of feeling misread, misunderstood, or even personally attacked by an anonymous peer reviewer/colleague. But I always resist weighing in, knowing that at that moment my friend just needs to voice their frustration and receive some affirmation. It can be painful to receive this kind of criticism, especially when facing the pressures of tenure and promotion. However, while momentarily painful, even a negative peer review can be a good thing, and you can use the report to strengthen your book. So, here’s a bit of practical and philosophical advice to help you work through a tough peer review.

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1) Go ahead and vent—but be careful about where and how you do so.

As I mentioned, I see plenty of social media posts railing against Reviewer #2. No judgment. It’s good to get your community to support you through tough times. But I would caution against offering too much detail in a (semi)public forum or lingering in this phase for too long. It’s a small world—and although there should be an appropriate amount of distance between you and the reviewer, it’s always possible that they are in or adjacent to your social circles. You never know when the person you’ve declared to be the enemy of your book project will turn out to be the person you most wanted feedback from. (Yes, that happens!) After your initial venting, share the report with a trusted friend or colleague and get their feedback. Perhaps they will have a different take on the reader’s comments. They may identify productive advice that it was tough for you to see at first. If it helps, write a scathing response, voicing all of your frustration with the reader’s misapprehensions and misreadings. Get it all out. Then file it away.

2) Focus on problems, not solutions.

My colleague Ken Wissoker touched on this in his blog post on the merits of peer review, and it’s a strategy that I frequently employ to help authors shift their perspective on a review (even a positive one!). It’s easy to get hung up on the reader’s suggestions for how to improve your book. Maybe they recommend adding a chapter or including analysis of a topic or critic that you think is tangential to your project. Or, perhaps you feel like they didn’t “get” your argument or missed a point that’s already in the manuscript. Your job is to figure why the reader is tripping up. If you said something and they missed it, that may not be the reviewer’s fault. Chances are the point is buried at the end of a chapter or not articulated with enough force. In that case, you need to clarify and highlight your claims so that the reader does get it. It’s not uncommon to have two readers—one more positive, the other more critical—pointing to the same issue. It’s just easier to hear the person who presents their comments more constructively. As the author, it’s your job to make the leap and to figure out what your readers need in order to be convinced. Once you do that, it will be much easier to come up with a revision plan.

3) Clarify your vision.

Use the reader’s comments to sharpen your own vision for the book. I often ask authors early in the process: what do you want your book to accomplish? Are you aiming to shift a scholarly conversation, revise an accepted history, offer a new theoretical tool? Do all of the parts of the book support that mission? Clarity on this point will help you to decide which advice to take on board and which to leave by the wayside. The goal of the review process is to help you write the book you want to write, but even better. Let me repeat that, since it’s easy to forget as you’re wading through frustration, self-doubt, or any of the other feelings that this process provokes. You should use the review process to help you realize your vision for the book and to help you say what you want to say in a way that will reach your readers. For a peer-reviewed book, you need to do that in a way that is convincing to other experts in your field; but the book is yours.  (Note: I am setting aside exigencies such as tenure review, departmental pressures, and disciplinary policing, which can make this more complicated. But I always urge people to come back to their own ambitions for the project. The audiences and conversations you initiate or enter into with the book are the ones you’ll likely be engaging with for a while, and so they should be ones you care about.)

4) Talk to your editor.

Sometimes a negative review might mean that a press decides to turn down your project, and you may not have an opportunity to get substantial feedback from the editor. But other times, if the reports indicate that the project has great promise, an editor might be eager to work with you to see the book to publication. So process the report, get through the venting phase, and then set up a time to talk to your editor or send them an email with your preliminary thoughts and questions. As the editor, I have a different perspective. First, I know who the readers are, and while I keep their identities anonymous, I can also help an author think critically about the book’s audience and why a particular reviewer might be frustrated with the manuscript in its current state. For example, maybe you thought the book was for a history of science readership. Reviewer #2’s comments might help you to realize that this audience won’t be as receptive to your work. Is this who you are really writing for? If so, you may need to make some adjustments. If not, you may need to reframe the book for the readership you want. Also, I appreciate authors who can take a tough criticism and respond productively. I take it as a good sign when an author is willing to tackle Reviewer #2’s comments and use the feedback to make their book even better.

5) Remember that the review process is part of a larger scholarly conversation.

For many the review process simply feels like a set of hoops to jump through. And it can be that. But it’s also a chance to learn from your peers—just as you would when presenting a paper at a conference—and to respond. While there is the occasional mean-spirited reviewer, most readers are trying to be helpful. Try to receive the comments in the same spirit. Be grateful that someone took the time to read and think with you and take what you can from the conversation.

6) Make your response about you, not the reviewer.

Your editor may ask you to write a response to the reader reports, addressing the readers’ questions and laying out a revision plan. It’s tempting to use this as an opportunity to demonstrate all the ways that Reviewer #2 was wrong. (See #1 above: if you do this, keep it in your drafts folder.) Instead, focus on what you plan to do to improve the book. Now is the time for solutions! For example, if the reader didn’t think the book’s argument was cogent, offer a clear and concise overview of the book’s intervention. If the structure wasn’t working, explain how you will either adapt the structure or make the structure more visible so that the reader will understand it. And hold your ground when you need to. If you really don’t agree with a reviewer’s take on your project, say so and explain how you will make your vision for the project come to life.

6) Know when to cut your losses.

Sometimes a negative review is just a negative review. As difficult as it sounds, you may need to set it aside and move on—to a new press or to a new reviewer, depending on the situation. But hopefully with some of these strategies you can get the most out of the review process, and maybe someday you’ll even be thanking Reviewer #2 in your acknowledgments!

courtneyCourtney Berger is Executive Editor at Duke University Press. She joined the Press in 2003, after receiving her Ph.D. in English from Johns Hopkins University. Courtney acquires books across the humanities and social sciences. Her key areas of acquisition include: social and political theory, transnational American studies, Native American and indigenous studies, gender and sexuality studies, African American studies, Asian American studies, critical ethnic studies, environmental humanities, science and technology studies, media studies, literary studies, and geography.

 

Director Steve Cohn Retires

Steve Cohn (2)Steve Cohn, director of Duke University Press for twenty-five years, retires at the end of this week. He told the Duke Chronicle, “It has been a wild ride—sometimes wonderfully challenging, sometimes challenging to the point where I had no idea how we’d make it through—but in the end a very successful one.” To honor Steve, we offer some tributes from people who have worked with him over the years.

“I knew at the time when the provost asked me to take up a leadership position at the press that Steve was fully in support of that action, even though he obviously had credentials infinitely superior to mine. Later I understood that Steve was acting in character; that is, he was being generous and professional and putting what he saw as the needs of the press ahead of his own ambitions. Steve has always been a ‘company man,’ someone whose loyalty and devotion to the enterprise was obvious at every moment. I cherish my own tenure at the Press and attribute the success that we had in those years to Steve’s extraordinary dedication. And he also put up with me.” —Stanley Fish, Davidson-Kahn Distinguished University Professor of Humanities and Law at Florida International University and former Director of Duke University Press

“My first job at DUP was as the first assistant Steve Cohn had ever had. While I think I taught him some things about how to be assisted, he taught me a great deal more, through the example of his leadership: how to act with integrity; how to disagree strongly without making enemies; how to listen to and consider differing perspectives; how to communicate clearly and directly; and so much more. Steve’s leadership has shaped the strong organization we have become.”—Patty Chase, Steve’s former assistant and current Digital Content Manager

“Thank you for being kind, patient, and enthusiastic about the topic at hand (no matter what it was).”—Maria Volpe, Steve’s current assistant

“I’ve worked with Steve for more than twenty years and throughout that time I’ve always been impressed by his integrity, his devotion to our mission, his accessibility to his staff, and his commitment to being transparent in his decision-making. Sometimes that means we get more information than we actually want! Personally, I’ll miss Steve’s subtle sense of humor, his kind advice about parenting, and his deep historical knowledge of the Press and of Durham.”—Laura Sell, Publicity and Advertising Manager

“Steve Cohn’s thoughtful stewardship of the Press, his commitment to having all staff participate in the strategic planning process, and his zeal not only for our mission but for the publishing industry in general have made him an exceptional leader. I’ve enjoyed hearing stories about the extraordinary lengths Steve went to to recruit people to the Press in its less-robust days (including loaning one of them his caravan), and I am grateful for the work he put into making the Press what it is today.”—Jocelyn Dawson, Journals Marketing Manager

“With smarts, integrity, and humor of an infectiously subtle kind, Steve has stewarded DUP to the cutting-edge prominence it holds today as kick-ass academic press #1. Steadfast in vision, bold in execution, with the chops to be daring, Steve has been an exemplary director. His legacy will linger for a very long time. But his presence will be sorely missed. Thank you Steve for making the press, and involvement with it, such a richly intellectual engagement.”—Anne Allison, Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Duke University and member of the Press’s Editorial Advisory Board

“The press has benefited greatly from Steve’s publishing entrepreneurial vision and we’ve come a long way in his many years as director. I’ve really enjoyed working for him these past nine years. I have truly appreciated his support of our working environment of creative collaboration that drives and enables DUP successes. I wish him lots of lazy days of biking, reading, kayaking, and traveling in his retirement.”—Nancy Hoagland, Director of Editing, Design, and Production

“Steve Cohn leaves an amazing legacy at Duke University Press. He has shaped the Press with his independent and innovative ideas and through setting ambitious, long term goals. His entrepreneurial approach has challenged the organization to innovate and to embrace change, such as being one of the first UPs to establish and successfully sell our own electronic journals and books collections. He has successfully led the Press through huge changes in the scholarly publishing industry and fluctuations in the US marketplace while continuing to grow the Press so that it is set up to thrive in the future. Many thanks, Steve, for all of your hard work and dedication. “—Cason Lynley, Director of Marketing and Sales

“Whenever I’ve needed help, Steve has been available with an amazing and immediate command of detail, the right questions, and ideas that have taught me time and again how to balance pragmatism and our mission. I’ve always left the room with a solid plan and a lighter mind. Thank you for everything, and congratulations, Steve!”—Leslie Eager, Director of Publishing Services, Project Euclid

“I’ll always be grateful for Steve’s vision, creativity, and tenacity, In 2010, he envisioned Duke University Press as a digital publisher of distinction, and set us a goal of selecting, producing, marketing, and selling our digital publications with as much expertise and finesse as we did our print books and journals. To drive us forward in this area, Steve tapped me to lead our digital publishing strategy, and in doing so, provided me with a tremendous opportunity to contribute meaningfully to the Press and to scholarly publishing more generally. I am the publishing professional I am today due in large part because Steve shared generously his vast store of publishing knowledge and insight. For this and so much more, thank you, Steve.”—Allison Belan, Associate Director, Digital Strategy & Systems

“Steve envisioned what the Press could become and was the brilliant planner able to bring it into being. Each time the publishing environment changed for books or for journals, he was looking ahead to see what we needed to do in order to flourish five and ten years out. His guidance and leadership will be long remembered. He never told us what to publish, but always made it better.”—Ken Wissoker, Editorial Director

In his retirement, Steve plans to devote more time to the Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association, of which he is president. All of us at the Press will miss him and wish him the best in all his future endeavors. We are welcoming our new director, Dean Smith, on June 25.

Celebrating the People of Duke University Press

This week, members of the Association of University Presses honor our late colleague Mark Saunders, director of the University of Virginia Press, with a blog tour recognizing the people who make up our university press community. We asked our colleagues at Duke University Press to tell us what they appreciate about the people they work alongside.

“I spent a week-in-residence over a decade ago in the production department at the University of California Press. During that week I was overwhelmed by the generosity of Tony Crouch and Marilyn Schwartz, and the lengths to which they went to make sure I met as many people as possible and had access to whatever information they had that might help me and my department back home at Duke. I think that week was when I truly learned what university press publishing is all about: sharing ideas and resources freely with colleagues, both at home and around the country and world; struggling together with new technologies, new ways of doing business, new problems thrown at us by the likes of Amazon; and forming lasting friendships through annual meetings, committee work, listserv interactions, and even Twitter. Duke University Press is the house I live my work life in, its staff is my family, and my AUPresses colleagues are my virtual community.” —Patty Chase, Digital Content Manager

“I’ve worked at Duke University Press for 14 years—longer than I’ve lived at any one address. My colleagues and I know each others’ footsteps, tea preferences, and pet peeves. We’ve weathered tough projects and stressful times, and have greater trust and respect for each other as a result. Candidates often ask what we like about the Press and the answer is always the people. It feels trite but it’s true.” —Jocelyn Dawson, Journals Marketing Manager

“I’ve worked at Duke University Press for almost two years after several positions in the library services industry. Being new to the publishing side, I appreciate that my veteran colleagues are committed to providing resources that help all of us succeed. We celebrate each others’ accomplishments, whether big or small, as a team.” —Katja Moos, Digital Collections Sales Manager

“A visiting editor once asked our sales team what incentive they had to make sales if they didn’t get bonuses or commission. A few of us almost laughed because to us it was so obvious—the incentive is the mission and the fact that we want the Press to thrive and continue contributing to the scholarly dialogue. That’s what makes working for a UP special; the people who come and stay at places like Duke University Press believe in that mission and put their hearts into it. Even after 19 years at the Press, I am impressed on a daily basis with the dedication, creativity, intelligence, and humor of the people with whom I work.” —Cason Lynley, Director of Marketing and Sales

“My colleagues at Duke University Press are dedicated, smart, and creative, and I could write tributes to each of them. One person stands out as a star example of everything that is great about university press staff. Our Title Management [publishing software] Product Manager Ashley Postlethwaite never ceases to amaze me with her ingenuity, efficiency, deep knowledge, and eagerness to solve problems. I have come to believe there is no Title Management error she cannot troubleshoot, no report she cannot improve on, and no workflow she cannot make more efficient with a few under-the-hood tweaks. I’m also really impressed that with Title Management working generally smoothly for much of the organization, Ashley is not resting on her laurels, but instead going to various staff members to conduct audits of all the work we do in the system so that she can help us make it even better. Thank you, Ashley, for all you do!” —Laura Sell, Publicity and Advertising Manager

We are fortunate to work with a large number of dedicated and thoughtful individuals, and we hope that you feel the influence of their care as you read our books and journals.

Congratulations to our 2019 AUPresses Book, Jacket, and Journal Show Honorees

The selections for the 2019 AUPresses Book, Jacket, and Journal Show have been announced and as usual, our talented designers have been honored.

In the scholarly typographic category, Heather Hensley and Julienne Alexander have been selected for their design of Laughing at the Devil by Amy Laura Hall.

 

Amy Ruth Buchanan was also honored in the scholarly typographic category for her unified design of Fred Moten’s trilogy consent not to be a single being, which includes Black and Blur, Stolen Life, and The Universal Machine.

This year’s jury was Matt Avery, Nicole Caputo, Sara T. Sauers, and Na Kim. Congratulations to our honorees and thanks to all our designers for creating such beautiful books.

The Best Books We Read in 2018

From literary fiction to graphic novels, we love to read at Duke University Press! In this post, our staff members share their favorite reads from the past year. We hope you enjoy their suggestions, and maybe find a few gift ideas for the holiday season.

Akwaeke_EmeziElizabeth Ault, Acquisitions Editor, recommends two books this year: “The best book I read in 2018 is definitely Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi, the story of an Igbo-Tamil person whose bodymind is host to several ancient spirits/gods. It’s a stunning, poetic exploration of Igbo cosmologies, as well as of migration, gender, and dis/ability. The multiple voices in the book are brilliantly realized and distinctive, until they aren’t. I can’t wait to read it again.”

Alexander_MastersLiz Beasley, Managing Editor, recommends a biographical detective story: “I loved A Life Discarded: 148 Diaries Found in a Skip by Alexander Masters. When Masters finds a large collection of diaries in a dumpster, a very slow (five-year) chase ensues as he tries to find their author. At turns fascinating, dull, and suspenseful, and full of charming Britishisms, this memoir/detective story is a delight. Spoiler alert: illustrations and photographs are included, so avoid the temptation to flip through the pages for clues!”

Jordy_RosenbergCourtney Berger, Executive Editor, recommends a debut LGBTQ-themed novel: “I tore through Jordy Rosenberg’s Confessions of the Fox during my summer vacation. A salty and smart retelling of the life of Jack Sheppard as a trans man, Rosenberg shows us an 18th-century London in the throes of imperial expansion and where the violences of racism, gender normativity, and class hierarchy are being countered by resistance. The book is framed by the story of Dr. Voth, whose discovery and annotation of Sheppard’s narrative likewise reveals the brutally extractive world of the corporate university as well as ongoing defiance to it. Great read for folks who love fiction and scholarly footnotes!”

Claudia_RankineJocelyn Dawson, Journals Marketing and Sales Manager, recommends the subject of a recent DUP staff book discussion: “The Press’s Equity and Inclusion group selected Citizen by Claudia Rankine for discussion in November. This beautifully written book intersperses art, poetry, and short essays to create a chilling portrait of racial aggression in the US. The book topped ‘best of the year’ lists for 2014 and won the National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry and the L.A. Times Book Prize, among many other awards.”

Alexandra_RowlandJessica Malitoris, an intern in Books Marketing, recommends a fantasy novel: “Alexandra Rowland’s A Conspiracy of Truths is a fantastic tale about the power of stories, for good or ill. Chant, a traveling storyteller, finds himself on trial in a strange country for witchcraft. His desperate attempts to talk his way out of execution have repercussions not just for himself but for the entire country. Rowland’s writing—forceful, full of personality, and yet delicate—is a joy to read. I heartily recommend this book to any lovers of fantasy and perhaps even those who might not normally enjoy the genre.”

Patrick_NathanMichael McCullough, Books Marketing and Sales Senior Manager, recommends three LGBTQ-themed books this year: “Patrick Nathan’s Some Hell is the sad and powerful story of how a Minnesota family comes apart in the wake of a suicide. The focus is on the gay teenaged son and the mother, who are both—separately and in secret—reading through and protecting each other from the deceased father’s obsessive journals/notebooks, trying to understand his life and figure out how to keep going. It is hard to believe that this is a first novel, given the pinpoint control and maturity Nathan displays.

Andrew_Sean_Greer“On a much lighter note, I also read Less, Andrew Sean Greer’s hilarious novel about a minor gay novelist who puts together a deranged book tour to avoid his ex-boyfriend’s wedding. In a similar vein, My Ex-Life by Stephen McCauley (one of my favorite writers) also features a middle-aged gay man who decides to flee San Francisco to escape the consequences of a failed relationship. McCauley’s three main characters are so funny, so appealing, so human, and so beleaguered by life that I was praying for a happy ending.”

Laurent_BinetChris Robinson, Copywriter in Books Marketing, recommends a book of literary fiction: “The Seventh Function of Language by Laurent Binet is part detective caper, part alternative history, and a completely hilarious send-up of critical theory. Following the quest for Roman Jakobson’s mythical ‘seventh function of language’—which gives its possessor the ability to dictate the actions of other—readers learn the ‘real’ reason Althusser killed his wife, the motivations of the driver of the laundry truck that killed Barthes, Kristeva’s spycraft, a secret debate society, and a surprise revelation about Barack Obama. Anyone who has read even a bit of French theory should love this book.”

Emil_FerrisDan Ruccia, Designer in Journals Marketing, recommends a debut graphic novel: “My Favorite Thing is Monsters by Emil Ferris is a totally engrossing graphic novel about childhood, fitting in, Chicago in the late 1960s, monsters of various sorts, a mysterious murder, and so much more. The artwork is so vibrant and active, down to the lovingly recreated monster comic book covers that appear throughout. Can’t wait for the second volume!”

Celeste_NgLaura Sell, Publicity and Advertising Manager in Books Marketing, recommends a 2017 novel: “My favorite read of 2018 was Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere. It’s the story of the apparently perfect Richardson family who live in apparently perfect Shaker Heights. Their perfect world is shattered when their close friends adopt a Chinese-American baby. The compelling story and carefully written characters bring up some uncomfortable truths for ‘liberal’ white readers without being overly preachy. I couldn’t put it down and finished it in a day and a half!”

Gerard_ReveMatt Tauch, Book Designer, recommends The Evenings by Gerard Reve: “I wasn’t aware of this author or his ‘Dutch postwar masterpiece’ before chancing upon a review in the Guardian some time ago. It was one quote from that review—‘I take cards out of a file. Once I have taken them out, I put them back in again.’—that made me think ‘this sounds perfect.’ And, for me, it nearly was. Dry, dark (morose, occasionally to the point of macabre), and quietly hilarious, The Evenings follows our man Frits through ten droll days and damp Amsterdam nights leading up to New Year’s Eve 1946, his persistent neuroses forever in tow (others’ creeping baldness is of particular concern). But books aren’t all about content, right? Please consider also that this is the first and only English translation, and Pushkin has packaged it beautifully: wrapped in a gorgeously illustrated uncoated jacket and tucked in between the most precious light pink end papers.”

Oyinkan_BraithwaiteErica Woods Tucker, Production Coordinator, recommends My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite: “This is such a smart, funny book that takes on themes of feminism while taking you through a wild romp into the lives of two sisters, one of whom obviously has the better end of the relationship. It’s a short book, so you can read it in one sitting. But since it’s short, I can’t give much away; but I will say, ‘This isn’t your average serial killer book.’ So if you like mystery-thrillers that make you think and laugh a bit, this one is for you.”

Thanks to our staff for another year of great reads and recommendations! We look forward to expanding our collective literary minds in 2019.

Join Us for an Open House on November 15

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To celebrate University Press Week, we are delighted to invite friends, fans, and colleagues to join us at our first-ever Open House on November 15 from 3-5 p.m.

Explore the Duke University Press library as you enjoy book displays and refreshments, meet staff, and enter a raffle featuring a tote bag full of new books and journals.

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Win this tote bag full of books, journals, and swag!

University Press Week highlights the extraordinary work of nonprofit scholarly publishers and their many contributions to culture, the academy, and an informed society. In addition to our Open House, look for displays of our books and journals around campus and read special posts on our blog that week.

Duke students, faculty, staff, and members of the community are welcome!

We are located in Brightleaf Square’s North Building at 905 West Main Street. Enter from the courtyard at the door between the empty restaurant and the craft store. Head up the stairs and turn left. The library is down the hall on the left.

Free parking is available at the Brightleaf Square gated lot at Gregson and Main Streets, on the side of Morgan Imports. Bring your parking ticket to the open house for validation. We look forward to meeting you!

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Open Access Week Q&A with Director Steve Cohn

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Today our Director Steve Cohn answers questions in honor of Open Access Week, a global event dedicated to discussion and education about Open Access within the scholarly and research community and to the expansion of access to research and information across disciplines. Steve Cohn got his start in publishing as the managing editor of the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law, which he brought with him to the Press in 1984 as the Press’s eighth journal (we now publish over fifty), and which the Press continues to publish today. He came to the Press as the Journals Manager, and after building and strengthening that program he became Director in 1993. Steve led the Press back from a period of financial insecurity in the nineties, through the transition from print to digital formats, and through significant growth and expansion of its publishing program.

Why is it important that Duke University Press experiment with Open Access?

Given the way our world is changing—with many librarians, funding agencies, and governments pushing towards a fully open-access publishing environment—we feel it is imperative that we begin experimenting with open-access publishing, even though we see no way for open-access publishing to be feasible (or desirable) on a broad scale for the sort of publishing we are now doing.

Mainly for that reason, but also because we believe that demonstrating ways to publish open-access projects successfully can allow us to attract some excellent projects that we could not otherwise have attracted, we have begun publishing both journals and books in open-access arrangements, in each case insisting that the OA arrangement must be financially sustainable over the long term.

What was the Press’s first venture into OA publishing?

Our longest-running OA project by far is the Carlyle Letters Online (CLO), the electronic database that has mainly superseded the long series of printed volumes (now nearing fifty) that began in 1970 and will continue to be published steadily at the pace one volume per year, supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, until we reach the end of this voluminous set of letters from Thomas and Jane Welsh Carlyle in a few more years.

The CLO is widely considered to be a model “lives and letters” database, much used, much loved, and much imitated. We hope it can soon start to serve as the model and the base for a much wider set of annotated letters, diaries, and other Victorian life-writing.  

What open access initiatives have been most successful for Duke University Press?

In the realm of journals, we have concentrated our open-access efforts on what are alternatively called diamond or platinum models, i.e., models that do not depend on author payments as their source of sustainability. In the areas we publish in primarily—the humanities, the interpretive social sciences, and mathematics—most authors do not have grant funding to cover OA charges, as they do in the sciences; so they would have to pay article fees out of their own pockets.

The model for those efforts is our very successful publication of Environmental Humanities, a journal that is supported through annual contributions of $5,000 each from five academic centers scattered among Australia, Canada, Europe, and the US. (Magazines for Libraries said, “Environmental Humanities is one of the most beautifully realized open access journals I’ve ever had the pleasure of reviewing. This is a title whose URL should be shouted from the rooftops: it’s that good.”)  

This is a model we are promoting for other open-access journals that want to work with us, and we have recently signed an agreement with Judith Butler and the International Consortium of Critical Theory Programs for taking on a fledgling journal called Critical Times: Interventions in Global Critical Theory, which we expect will be equally successful.

How do you decide whether to participate in an OA initiative? What are your criteria?

Our criteria for publishing an OA project of any sort are the very same criteria we use for choosing to take on any publishing project: the project must be intellectually significant and it must be financially sustainable. Both our OA books and our OA journals pass through the very same peer-review processes, including final approval by our faculty board, as everything else we publish.

The books we have published in OA form have almost always already been through the approval process long before they are chosen for OA publication. The main OA funding programs for books that we now use—Knowledge Unlatched and TOME—have so far been focused on already-accepted books that are well along in the production process by the time they are chosen for receiving the financial support that will allow the access to be opened up.

But even if we knew from the first that a book would be published OA, we would take it through the same review and approval process; and also we would design, edit, produce, market, and sell it in all the same ways as a book that had no open access.

How do you find ways to make OA book publishing financially sustainable?

So far, we find it impossible to imagine receiving funding that would be sufficient to pay all the costs for our very labor-intensive methods of book publication. Our books are expensive to produce, given the amount of time and care we put into them, and the unlatching amounts provided so far by OA funding sponsors like Knowledge Unlatched and TOME are not nearly sufficient to cover our full publishing costs (including staff time). So, with the exception of a few early and not very successful experiments, all of the books we publish in open access form electronically are also for sale through all our usual sales channels: we print them like any other book we publish; and we also offer them for sale in electronic formats in all the usual ways.

This is sometimes called “hybrid” OA publishing. We expect that the subventions or “unlatching fees” that enable us to open these books up can cover the revenue losses that come from electronic availability, as people choose to use the OA version rather than buy a copy. But we definitely do not expect those fees—on the order of $15,000—to be our sole source of sustainable income on these books, as it would not be nearly enough. With 75 books that are hybrid OA now on the market, we are starting to be in a position to collect good data on the effect of electronic OA publishing on the sales of these books. The ability to measure the effect of OA in a hybrid publishing arena is crucial for us to be able to assess whether a payment of something like $15,000 is enough to cover our revenue losses when we open the electronic access.

What’s Online Peer Review For? Guest Post by Stacy Lavin

It’s Peer Review Week, an annual event that brings together individuals, institutions, and organizations committed to sharing the central message that good peer review, whatever shape or form it might take, is critical to scholarly communications. We are pleased to share a guest post by Senior Managing Editor for Journals, Stacy Lavin.

You might look at the title to this post and think: Duh, it’s for peer review. Right? I mean, what is an online peer-review system but a digital version of the analog process that editorial offices have been following for centuries? All anachronisms (and attempts at catchy openers) aside, that’s exactly what I used to think. That is, it’s what I thought online peer review was for before I spent about four years acting as an intermediary between our journals’ editorial offices that use online peer review and the vendor for the system we use (Aries/Editorial Manager). In those four years, I’ve discovered that online peer review has the potential to do much more than streamline the work editorial offices do to vet and select content for publication. It has the potential not only to address the pain points of academic journal editors and their staff but also to serve the broader strategic interests of editorial offices, scholars, and publishers in less obvious ways.

As we’ve been reminded during Peer Review Week 2018, “good peer review, whatever shape or form it might take, is critical to scholarly communications.” This year’s Peer Review Week theme of diversity in peer review has, moreover, prompted us to consider the invisible and indirect barriers to “good peer review,” which resonates with the growing awareness of the importance of actively and systematically developing a culture of inclusion within the community of university presses. As Sandra Korn and Alejandra Mejía astutely observe, writing of their work to coordinate the student intern program in the Books Acquisitions department of Duke University Press, it “is vital to the intellectual work of publishing to have queer students, students of color, students from low socioeconomic backgrounds, and student activists engaging with the literature that is oftentimes theorizing the experiences of their communities.” Alice Meadows, writing just this morning, reminds us that while we’ve known for a while that scholarly publishing overall is an “overwhelmingly white and cis-female industry, with a leadership that is disproportionately white male dominated,” it is becoming clear that peer review is likewise “less diverse and more biased than it could or should be, which is hindering our efforts to ensure an inclusive, ethical, trustworthy scholarly communications ecosystem.”

Getting back to my opening thoughts about online peer review, I would add that cultivating an inclusive culture in all of the spheres of our work as a scholarly publishing community is one of the broader strategic interests that online peer-review systems have the potential to further. For instance, among the eight tactics Meadows recommends in her post as ways to tackle diversity and inclusion in peer review, two of them involve pillars of online peer-review systems: data and software. Tactic number six is “Collect the data.” While there has been limited progress in creating gender equity in referee populations, Meadows suggests that at the very least collecting the data is “a critical first step toward being able to understand, and ultimately resolve, the issue.” Tactic number seven is “Make use of available tools” like editorial management software that can “spot and reduce the risk of bias in the selection of reviewers.”

Now, you might be thinking peer-review systems are hardly built to address diversity and they’re often seen as pretty onerous to manage by users as it is. Good point. Let’s step back for a moment and consider that the main challenges that online peer-review systems originally aimed to address were ironically the high labor requirements of managing the processing and vetting of submissions—inviting reviewers, reminding reviewers, making decisions, sending decision letters, asking for revisions, reminding authors to send in revisions—not to mention increasing concern over reviewer availability and fatigue. Online peer-review systems stepped in to help solve some of these problems (automating reminders, etc.), while more avant-garde services have sought to streamline the work of reviewers themselves (Rubriq, etc.). While the automation and data tracking features of peer-review systems have been useful, reviewer fatigue has been a more elusive and possibly more critical challenge. For instance, there are journals who claim to practice blind review but then—passing the burden of finding a reviewer onto the contributor—require contributors not only to nominate a reviewer for their submission but also obtain the permission of that reviewer to nominate them (which I guess makes it not-so-blind review).

With online peer review, as is often the case with technology, solving some frustrations gave birth to new frustrations. The typical grievances are aversions to non-intuitive interfaces—the tinkering, system-admin-oriented environments where coders and likeminded folks feel right at home but others…don’t (I’ll leave it to Kent Anderson to articulate the way many users feel about manuscript tracking and submission systems). But that’s just one (solvable) problem representing only one facet of the massive capabilities these systems have the potential to materialize to help the scholarly publishing community facilitate a more inclusive peer review culture (not to mention more efficient editorial and production processes). In fact, I am convinced that the biggest opportunity of the current state of online peer-review is also a source of the biggest concerns users have: it can do so much more than they need. They’d prefer not having so many functions, options, buttons, or configurations. They don’t want to have to adapt their workflows to the system. The beauty of it is that they don’t have to. As Meadows notes, we can use existing features of these robust systems to pursue the multifaceted interests of the scholarly communications community. As well-funded companies recognize the value of and acquire online peer-review systems, those systems might become more flexible and capable of developing the tools we need to solve the more elusive problems of peer review like reviewer fatigue and making peer review more inclusive—in fact, solving the latter is key to solving the former. Likewise, established publishing vendors are adding peer review to their suite of services, seeking input from the academic publishing community on how to best meet their needs. Our voices as publishers and potential consumers of their expanded services will carry a lot of weight in those conversations, I would think. As I see it, our job in this climate of consolidation/expansion with respect to online peer-review software is to focus on what these systems can do to help us, not just our workflows but also our broader strategic interests, such as cultivating inclusion in all aspects of what we do. It’s not our job to adapt to these systems (they’re almost infinitely configurable) but theirs to adapt to us in our efforts to actively and systematically foster diversity in scholarly publishing.

How a Culture of Inclusion Can Improve Peer Review: Guest Post by Sandra Korn and Alejandra Mejía

It’s Peer Review Week, an annual event that brings together individuals, institutions, and organizations committed to sharing the central message that good peer review, whatever shape or form it might take, is critical to scholarly communications. We are pleased to share a guest post by Assistant Editor Sandra Korn and Editorial Associate Alejandra Mejía to kick off the week.

Last year for peer review week, our Editorial Director Ken Wissoker wrote about why he loves peer review. This year, we have a different sort of take: we want to look at how mentoring and developing students from diverse backgrounds can strengthen the work of book acquisitions.

bedit field trip

Staff and interns from our Books Acquisitions department on a field trip to the Museum of Durham History, including post authors Sandra Korn (back left) and Alejandra Mejía (front, second from right).

The two of us work together to coordinate the student internship program in the Books Acquisitions department at Duke University Press. Our department relies on our students to carry out some of the administrative work that is essential to our workflow, but we also draw them into conversations about projects in their field of interest, and provide professional development experience for them in acquisitions and across the press.

How do diversity and inclusion, the academic peer review process, and student internships overlap? We believe that listening to voices that have been traditionally underrepresented in the publishing industry can make our editorial work, and our author’s books, more thoughtful and responsive. This is especially vital because our industry remains majority white — a recent study found that 91% of employees in scholarly publishing identify as white. Valuing insights from our student interns can aid the process of upholding socially conscientious scholarship as well as promote a more inclusive culture within academic publishing.

Duke Press hires three to five undergraduate and graduate students during the summer and school year, and we are able to pay all of our student interns. Many other university presses, especially those at public universities with constrained budgets, still have unpaid internships — but important conversations questioning that common practice are finally happening across the publishing industry. Paid internships make interning here a viable option for students from low-income backgrounds: after all, many low-income students work in order to finance their studies, maintain themselves, and send money home. We are grateful to provide students from low-income backgrounds the opportunity to learn about an industry which they may have not ever thought about as a feasible career path.

And, we have made the conscious decision to review student intern applications using a holistic rubric. The many different experiences and skills that diverse applicants bring to the table will undoubtedly influence their work and the direction of the Press as a whole. We take care to hire acquisitions interns who come from the many colleges and universities across our region, including historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). (If you’re a student nearby, you can apply right now to work in our department this year!)

As coordinators of the internship program, we recognize our role in training future scholars and publishing professionals from a diverse range of backgrounds, from academic to socioeconomic. Part of this work is recognizing the daily support that we can provide our students via training, relationship-building, and upholding their voices.

It is exactly by valuing the opinions of student interns and colleagues that we can begin to expand the scope of scholarly publishing and create a culture of inclusion in the publishing industry. For instance, we’ve already seen how fruitful it can be for junior-level staff to express opinions, thoughts, and knowledge about processes and projects. One of our editors is acquiring a book that analyzes racism in the American public school system. Our summer intern, who recently graduated from a local arts high school, was able to speak to the editor about her own experience as a person of color in a predominantly white school. And we have heard student interns contribute important insights into who might be an appropriate peer reviewer or cover artist. Moreover, these students are our future acquisition editors, authors, and peer reviewers: truly including them in editorial conversations now will strengthen the scholarly publishing industry in the long term.

It is vital to the intellectual work of publishing to have queer students, students of color, students from low socioeconomic backgrounds, and student activists engaging with the literature that is oftentimes theorizing the experiences of their communities. We are excited to think about what the future of academic publishing could look like with a wide array of voices and skills coming together.