Archive for the 'News' Category

Recording the labours of the ingenious: 350 years of the scholarly journal

In this blog post, Kim Eggleton, our Journals Executive, takes a look back at the 350 year history and exciting future possibilities for the humble Journal.

Kim Eggleton, Journals Executive

Kim Eggleton, Journals Executive

2015 marks the 350th anniversary of the scholarly journal. Can you believe that, 350 years? Think where we’ve come from there. There are now arguably too many journals to choose from!

There are even tools and businesses dedicated to helping researchers find the “right” journal for them. While the exact number is up for debate, there were estimated to be more than 28,000 active scholarly peer-reviewed journals in existence in August 2012, collectively publishing about 1.7–1.8 million articles a year (Ware and Mabe, 2012).

There’s a journal of everything now. Want to know more about chips? Try the American Journal of Potato Research. Wondering what the music of Ancient Greece was inspired by? Try Greek and Roman Musical Studies. Interested in what causes dandruff? Read the International Journal of Trichology. Any viewers of Have I got News for You know this list could go on and on. But this tells us something…

Someone was onto something 350 years ago.

The first journal ever published began as a bit of a private project for Henry Oldenburg, the then Secretary of the Royal Society. Henry wanted to create a kind of collective notebook between scientists, and came up with Philosophical Transactions. The aim of the journal was to give “some accompt of the present undertakings, studies, and labours of the ingenious in many considerable parts of the world”.

The journal was published pretty much on a monthly schedule, and Henry himself put out 136 issues before his death in 1677. It was only taken over by the Society in 1752, until then all financial and editorial responsibility was that of the Secretary of the Society. At the end of the 19th century journal was divided in to two, such was the increase in and demand for scientific discovery. Philosophical Transactions A covered the physical sciences and Philosophical Transactions B covered the life sciences. An exhibition of the treasures relating to the first ever journal is currently on at the Royal Society in London, and runs until next Tuesday.

“Most academic journals now have double-blind peer review -the author doesn’t know who the reviewer is and vice versa.”

Peer review as we know it today has its roots in this journal, although until the end of the 19th century, peer review was only conducted by the Editor in Chief, or perhaps a small team of advisors – and they knew the identity of the author. Most academic journals now have double-blind peer review, meaning the author doesn’t know who the reviewer is and vice versa.

Nowadays peer review is an accepted part of academic life, and journals can reach out to any qualified academic in the field to ask them to complete a review. Lots of researchers will receive a number of requests to review papers each week, and peer review itself is often described as system now in need of an overhaul.

A Brave New World

There have been many, many changes in journals-land since Henry started Philosophical Transactions – some small, some colossal. The upscaling (and economies of scale) of production thanks to industrial sized printing presses in the 1900’s. The personal computer. The move to online – not only for access, but for submission and review. The Big Deal. Open Access.

Henry Oldenburg would hardly recognise the moden Journal and its accompaniments.

Henry Oldenburg would hardly recognise the moden Journal and its accompaniments.

Could Henry ever have conceived of something like PLOS ONE or GoogleScholar? And that’s keeping things relatively traditional. What about the other innovations in research dissemination, like FigShare? And the ways of measuring impact using tools like Altmetrics and Kudos? Researchers are under pressure now not only to study and publish, but to prove that what they publish makes a difference.

“I can’t imagine my life without Editorial Manager.”

The future

Things are moving very fast now for journals, and I’m sure that at the 400th anniversary of Philosophical Transactions, things will be unrecognisable again. There are new ideas and projects being launched all the time – and this is a very healthy thing. A small but personal example: I use Editorial Manager every day to keep an eye on the papers coming into all our journals. I can’t imagine my life without it – I’d constantly be on the phone, I’d have lists coming out of my ears, I’d have to carry all my notes around with me if I went away on business… it’s a horrible thought. I’d certainly lose something, if not many things – including my mind. Many resisted the idea of an online submission system at first, but it’s made a big improvement in time to publication, peer review transparency, and ultimately author satisfaction.

Science has taken thousands of great leaps forwards since Henry Oldenburg started his “collective notebook”, but so has the notebook itself. While I won’t be around to attend the 2515 exhibition, I’m certainly intrigued to see what happens next…


Ware, M. and Mabe, M. 2012, The STM report: An overview of scientific and scholarly journal publishing, 3rd edition,

Larsen PO, von Ins M. The rate of growth in scientific publication and the decline in coverage provided by Science Citation Index. Scientometrics 2010; 84(3):575-603. doi:10.1007/s11192-010-0202-z


Book Aid International

In this blog post, Nick Levett, a volunteer at Policy Press highlights the impact of Book Aid International, a book-distribution charity that Policy Press have recently had the pleasure of donating over 28,000 books to.

Book Aid International is a fantastic charity that has donated over 31 million books to libraries in Africa, as well as training local librarians. In this blog post, I’d like to draw more attention to the human impact their projects have had, their history, and how you can help Book Aid continue its invaluable work.

Moses Mwandihi is the librarian at the Kisumu Provincial Library, which for many years has received books from Book Aid International. The picture Moses paints of the availability of books in schools in the region is dire: Continue reading ‘Book Aid International’

The Beauty of the Hay Literary Festival

KK-web-13Policy Press Marketing Manager Kathryn King shares her first experience of the Hay Literary Festival. Policy Press were delighted that five of our authors were speaking at the event – Danny Dorling, Mary O’Hara, Peter Hain, Hugh Ellis and Kate Henderson.

“It was with a lot of excitement that I set off to drive to Hay-on-Wye on Saturday 23rd May for my first ever visit to the Hay Literary Festival. I was lucky enough to be going to hear our authors Danny Dorling and Mary O’Hara talk about inequality and austerity, and launch their books Injustice: Why social inequality still persists and Austerity bites: A journey to the sharp end of cuts in the UK. Continue reading ‘The Beauty of the Hay Literary Festival’

How financing affected the 2015 UK General Election campaign

What part did financing play in last week’s election results? We know that political parties are crucial to British democracy and that the grassroots constituency branches provide both people and money to drive an election. 

Ron Johnston

Ron Johnston

Ron Johnston, co-author of Money and Electoral Politics discusses campaign finance and how it has affected the 2015 general election on the Guardian Politics Weekly Extra here.

Charles Pattie

Charles Pattie

In their much-needed book, Money and Electoral Politics, Ron Johnston and Charles Pattie use the latest research and hitherto unpublished material to explore financial differences across the UK’s three main parties in the four years leading up to the 2010 General Election. They look at how much local parties raise for election campaigns and find that the more money candidates spend then, the better their performance.

Analyses of their annual accounts, however, show that many local parties are unable to raise all of the money that they are entitled to spend on such campaigns. This reveals an unhealthy picture of grassroots party organisation in which the capacity to engage effectively with many voters is concentrated in a relatively small number of constituencies and is likely to remain so.

Policy Press CoverWant to know more? You can purchase a copy of Money and Electoral Politics from the Policy Press website here.

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The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blogpost authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.


Tyranny’s False Comfort: Why Rights Aren’t Wrong in Tough Times

Human Rights Watch is an independent, international organization that defends the rights of people worldwide.  To celebrate the publication of their World Report 2015 this month we have reproduced an excerpt of Executive Director, Kenneth Roth’s (@KenRoth) article about the current state of human rights globally today. This post was first published on the Human Rights Watch website and can be viewed in full here.

Kenneth Roth

Kenneth Roth, Executive Director Human Rights Watch

The world has not seen this much tumult for a generation. The once-heralded Arab Spring has given way almost everywhere to conflict and repression. Islamist extremists commit mass atrocities and threaten civilians throughout the Middle East and parts of Asia and Africa. Cold War-type tensions have revived over Ukraine, with even a civilian jetliner shot out of the sky. Sometimes it can seem as if the world is unraveling.

Many governments have responded to the turmoil by downplaying or abandoning human rights. Governments directly affected by the ferment are often eager for an excuse to suppress popular pressure for democratic change. Other influential governments are frequently more comfortable falling back on familiar relationships with autocrats than contending with the uncertainty of popular rule. Some of these governments continue to raise human rights concerns, but many appear to have concluded that today’s serious security threats must take precedence over human rights. In this difficult moment, they seem to argue, human rights must be put on the back burner, a luxury for less trying times.

That subordination of human rights is not only wrong, but also shortsighted and counterproductive. Human rights violations played a major role in spawning or aggravating most of today’s crises. Protecting human rights and enabling people to have a say in how their governments address the crises will be key to their resolution. Particularly in periods of challenges and difficult choices, human rights are an essential compass for political action.

The Rise of ISIS

No challenge in the past year has exploded more dramatically than the emergence of the self-proclaimed Islamic State, the extremist group also known as ISIS. One can only be appalled at ISIS’s mass execution of captured combatants and disfavored civilians. This Sunni armed group has singled out Yazidis, Turkmen, Kurds, Shia, and even other Sunnis who contest its extreme interpretation of Islamic law. Its militants have enslaved, forcibly married, and raped Yazidi women and girls, and beheaded journalists and aid workers in gruesome videotaped spectacles. Rarely has an armed force engendered such widespread revulsion and opposition.

Yet ISIS did not emerge in a vacuum. In part it is a product of the United States-led war and military occupation of Iraq that began in 2003, which produced, among other things, a security vacuum and the abuses of detainees in Abu Ghraib prison and other US-run detention centers. Funding of extremist groups by Gulf states and their citizens also played a role. More recently, the sectarian policies of the Iraqi and Syrian governments, and international indifference to those governments’ serious rights abuses, have been important factors. If the conditions that led to ISIS are left to fester, the group could deepen its hold on the two countries and expand into Lebanon, Jordan, Libya, and beyond.


In Iraq, ISIS owes much of its emergence to the abusive sectarian rule of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the resulting radicalization of the Sunni community. With Iranian backing, Maliki took personal control of Iraqi security forces and supported the formation of Shia militia, many of which brutally persecuted the minority Sunni population. Sunnis were excluded from select government jobs, rounded up and arbitrarily detained under new overbroad laws, summarily executed, and indiscriminately bombed.

The severity of the persecution can be measured by its effects. ISIS’s predecessor, Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), was defeated with the help of a military coalition of Sunni tribes in western Iraq known as the Awakening Councils. But many of the tribes that nearly single-handedly defeated AQI became so fearful of slaughter and persecution by pro-government security forces that when conflict broke out in 2014, they felt safer fighting those forces than ISIS.

Human rights groups persistently called attention to Maliki’s abusive rule, but the US, the United Kingdom, and other countries, eager to put their own military involvement in Iraq behind them, largely shut their eyes to this sectarian reign—and even plied it with arms.

Today, there is wider recognition that this indifference to atrocities under Maliki was a mistake. Eventually he was forced from office and replaced by Haider al-Abadi, who has pledged a more inclusive form of governance. But as Western military aid still flows into Iraq, abusive sectarianism has not ended. Maliki continues to serve as one of Iraq’s three vice presidents, and the weak government has vastly increased its reliance on Shia militia, allowing the mobilization of almost one million Shia fighters without government oversight or regulation. Indeed, because of the Iraqi army’s disarray, the militias are the lead ground forces fighting ISIS, despite their ongoing killing and cleansing of Sunnis as ostensible ISIS sympathizers. Until these atrocities end, the Shia militias are likely to do more to aid ISIS recruitment than to defeat ISIS on the battlefield.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi government has not ended indiscriminate military attacks in civilian areas or released a significant number of detainees held without a warrant or after completion of their sentences. The corrupt and abusive judiciary remains unreformed, and Abadi’s calls for an end to abusive, exclusionary rule remain unimplemented. Over the long term, completing these reforms will be at least as important as military action to protect civilians from ISIS atrocities.


In Syria, ISIS owes its rise to various factors, including porous borders with Turkey that have enabled fighters armed and funded by foreign governments to flow in. Many then joined the extremist group. ISIS has also generated funds through exorbitant ransom demands and “taxes” on people in territory it controls, as well as selling Syrian oil and antiquities.

With these building blocks, ISIS came to portray itself as the force most capable of standing up to the extraordinary brutality of President Bashar al-Assad and his troops. In vicious fashion, Assad’s forces have been deliberately attacking civilians who happen to live in opposition-held areas, aiming to depopulate these areas and punish presumed rebel sympathizers.

Since the Syrian government turned over its chemical weapons, its most notorious tool has been the barrel bomb, an oil drum or similar container filled with high explosives and metal fragments. Also used by the Iraqi air force, it has gained notoriety in Syria, where the air force typically drops it from a helicopter hovering at high altitudes to avoid anti-aircraft fire. From that height, the barrel bomb is impossible to target with any precision. It simply tumbles to earth, making its dreaded swishing sound as its contents shift back and forth, until it hits the ground and detonates.

Barrel bombs are so inaccurate that the Syrian military does not dare use them near the front lines for fear of hitting its own troops. Rather, it drops them well into territory held by rebel groups, knowing that they will destroy apartment buildings, hospitals, schools, and other institutions of civilian life. These indiscriminate weapons have made life so miserable for many civilians that some who do not flee the country choose to move their families near the front line, preferring to brave snipers and artillery rather than the horror of the barrel bombs.

When the Syrian government attacked civilians with chemical weapons, the United Nations Security Council pressured Assad to stop and to surrender his weapons. But as the Syrian government killed countless more civilians by indiscriminate attacks with conventional weapons such as barrel bombs, as well as cluster munitions, incendiary weapons, and unguided rockets, the Security Council has largely stood on the sidelines. A number of states have condemned the slaughter, but they have done little more to generate pressure to end it.

Russia has used its Security Council veto power to stop unified efforts to end the carnage. Russia, as well as Iran, has also refused to use their enormous influence in Damascus to press for an end to the indiscriminate attacks, despite demands from the Security Council, including Russia, for such attacks to cease. Referring Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to address serious international crimes by all sides, a step endorsed by more than 65 countries, remains anathema to Moscow.

The US-led coalition has taken on ISIS, but no nation—whether adversaries like the US, or backers like Russia and Iran—have increased pressure on Assad to stop the slaughter of civilians. The two cannot, and should not, be so easily separated

This selective concern has been a gift to ISIS recruiters, who portray themselves as the only ones willing and able to stand up to Assad’s atrocities. Simply attacking ISIS is clearly not going to end its appeal. A broader concern with protecting Syrian civilians is required.

To read more of Kenneth’s article please click here. You can follow Kenneth on twitter @KenRoth and you can follow Human Rights Watch there too – @hrw

World Report 2015 [FC]You can also purchase a hard copy of the World Report 2015 from the Policy Press website at a 20% discount here

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Celebrating Human Rights Day, 10 December

The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blogpost authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.


January editorial: Happy New Year from Policy Press

RM-14-webWell here it is, 2015.

Typically the New Year is a time for resolutions and fresh starts, for reviewing what worked last year and building on that as we look to the future. This is as true of Policy Press as it is of any individual.

We were thrilled, for example, that some of our titles received so much recognition in 2014 with Austerity Bites by Mary O’Hara being included in the Guardian Writers Pick best books of 2014 as well as John Hills Good times, bad times and Ann Oakley’s Father and Daughter being included in the Times Higher Education books of 2014.

We’re determined to continue to publish books that not only help to improve social conditions and make a positive difference to learning and research, policy and practice, but also challenge and push forward debate in areas such as politics and social justice, welfare and equality.

Lisa Mckenzie, author of 'Getting by'

Lisa Mckenzie, author of ‘Getting by’

This year we will be publishing more books than ever before in our history and our list includes titles of wide general interest, research and textbooks, and books for practioners, as well as our new Shorts, plus of course our Journals. In January we’ll be making a strong start down this path, publishing 11 new books including Getting by by Lisa Mckenzie, a unique account of life in poor communities in contemporary Britain, which publishes next week.

We are of course effectively ‘Back to the Future’. Not however, from a Policy Press point of view at least, in terms of the Hollywood movie time-travelling trio, Marty McFly and friends…

Back to the future of socialism-for-webOur ‘Back to the Future’ is rather more grounded as later this month we will be publishing Peter Hain’s book Back to the Future of Socialism, in which he revisits Anthony Crosland’s classic text The Future of Socialism (1956), a creed for governments of the centre left. As the UK General Election campaigning is already well underway Hain’s book topically presents a stimulating political prospectus for the left today and we can’t wait to hear your reactions to it.

Only 117 days of election campaigning to go…

All the latest information, as well as 35% discount on all publications, can be delivered direct to your inbox thanks to the wonders of our popular newsletter. If you’re interested and not already signed up then do click here.

We’re also pleased that we were able to use this blog as a platform to give voice to a large number of our authors and others last year on a wide variety of topics both related directly to their areas of research and to headline news items. (If you didn’t see it in December, we’d definitely recommend you take a look at our Top 10 most popular blog posts from 2014…) .

In 2015 our intention is to do more with our blog and again we would love to hear from you in terms of what you’ve really enjoyed and would like to see more of – please get in touch with us here.

All the best for a warming January and successful 2015…

Rebecca Megson
Blog editor

Policy Press – a year in charity

Throughout 2014 Policy Press supported St Mungo’s, a charity supporting the homeless and those at risk of homelessness. We got involved in some great activities. Below is a summary of the year.

December 2013


Victoria wins the mince pie bake-off!

Policy Press staff and authors kick-started our year of activity by donating to St Mungo’s in lieu of sending Christmas cards.

We also held a mince-pie bake off amongst staff. Congratulations Victoria!








January 2014

Woolly hat day

Woolly Hat Day 2014

On Friday 31st January we took part in St Mungo’s Woolly Hat day, wearing our woolliest hats to work and holding a cake sale.





March, April, May, June

Our monthly charity coffee mornings were a real success with Policy Press staff and colleagues in other University departments.



Charity quiz poster

For our big fundraising event of the year Policy Press held a ‘pub’ quiz. The event was a great success with teams from other Bristol publishers taking part, and prizes donated from local Bristol businesses.









Painting and decorating at St Mungo’s

Policy Press staff spent the day volunteering at a St Mungo’s crisis centre for men, in Bristol – decorating, making soft furnishings and cooking.








In 2015 we will be supporting Off the Record, a charity that runs a range of projects across Bristol and South Gloucestershire to support young people to improve their mental health and well-being.

If you would like to donate please visit our local giving page.

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