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Academic publishing

The Academic group took a series of bold initiatives in 2018–19 that underlined our commitment to greater openness and the timely sharing of scholarly research. The high quality of our publishing was recognised in our winning a particularly large number of industry awards.

The Press’s central purpose is to advance learning, knowledge and research worldwide and we believe this can be enhanced by the rapid dissemination of new thinking and greater academic collaboration. We believe that open research can help us to fulfil this purpose, as long as it allows for sustainable publishing models. During 2018–19 we made strong progress in developing the open research agenda on several fronts, including establishing a strategic goal to transition to full Open Access for journals.

In particular, we adopted a bold approach to ‘read and publish’ deals, which we see as an important stepping stone in a sustainable migration for our journals to Open Access. A read and publish deal is a licence that bundles together access to a publisher’s subscription content with the ability to publish openly through its journals without paying individual article processing charges. As well as the traditional access to Press content that comes with a subscription agreement, authors from the institution can publish research articles in the Press’s journals. 

One reason why we have committed to this as a key pillar of our open research transformation is because it provides a viable route to a fully open access world for content in the humanities and social sciences – a significant proportion of our collection – which often do not attract grant funding in the same way as many science, technology and medicine subjects.

To date we have agreed five of these deals in Europe – in the UK, Germany (two), Sweden and the Netherlands – and shortly before the year-end we signed our first one of scale outside Europe: a landmark deal in the US with the California Digital Library.  

This was one of the first – and the largest – Open Access deals reached by a publisher in the US and could encourage such transformative agreements among other North American libraries and academic consortia. 

In a further commitment to Open Access, we transitioned four of our own journals (Epidemiology & Infection; Genetics Research; Primary Health Care Research and Development; and the Netherlands Journal of Geosciences) from subscription models to gold open and plan further ‘flips’ in 2020. 

We believe that open research can help us to fulfil this purpose, as long as it allows for sustainable publishing models.”

In law and the social sciences we are supporting high-quality Open Access publishing through a new partnership with the German Law Journal and through the launch of Data and Policy in 2019. 

The logic of the path we have embraced was underscored during the year when research funding agencies from 11 European nations unveiled Plan S, a radical initiative under which publications that result from research funded by public grants must be published in compliant Open Access journals or platforms from 2020. We submitted our views as part of a single, joined-up Cambridge response, bringing together the voices from across the University. 

Cambridge Core, the digital publishing platform we launched in 2016, has played a central role in advancing our open research initiatives. It is host to Cambridge Core Share – the first sharing service launched by a university press – which went live in September following a ten-month trial. It allows journal content to be shared quickly, easily and responsibly online, permitting anyone to read the final published version of an article for free. By year-end more than 270 journals were benefitting from Cambridge Core Share.

Another significant open research innovation during the year was the announcement of the planned launch later in 2020 of our own open platform for preprints and research collaboration, designed to boost the impact of early stage research, with the American Political Science Association (APSA) as our first partner (see separate panel).

Maintaining the very high quality of our publishing is core to all we do. We were therefore delighted that 2018–19 was an excellent year for winning awards, from institutions as varied as the International Studies Association and the British Medical Association. In the Professional and Scholarly Excellence Awards (PROSE), presented by the Association of American Publishers (AAP), our tally of seven category winners and 21 finalists was greater than any other publishing house. 

One of our publishing innovations during the year was the launch of Cambridge Elements – concise, original, peer-reviewed scholarly and scientific research, organised into focused series edited by leading scholars (see separate panel).

One of the landmark publications of the year was the four-volume The Cambridge History of Ireland. It benefitted from eight launches in four countries by luminaries including Michael D Higgins, Ireland’s President, and Joe Biden, the former US Vice President. It garnered enthusiastic reviews, with the Irish Times describing it as ‘marvellously satisfying’.

US Politics

Academic has published a strong list of titles that offer insight into turbulent politics around the world, including a number of notable titles on US politics, building on the list’s long-standing reputation for excellence. White Identity Politics, by Ashley Jardina, is a sophisticated, readable and timely account of emerging patterns of white identity and collective political behaviour in the US. It has received much media attention, including a cover story in Newsweek, an interview in the New Yorker, and The New York Times and Washington Post op-eds. Cultural Backlash: Trump, Brexit and Authoritarian Populism is an authoritative account of one of the most disturbing political developments in the 21st century – the rise of authoritarian populism. Authors Pippa Norris and Ron Inglehart are among the world’s leading scholars in the field. The book highlights the dangers of this development and what could be done to mitigate the risks to liberal democracy.

Another highlight was publication of the third edition of The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language, which has been a flagship work for the Press since it was first published in 1995. David Crystal, the author, a renowned linguist, addressed all aspects of language change over the 15 years since the second edition, and the work was made available online for the first time, with additional resources, such as audio clips with original pronunciation extracts from Beowulf and Macbeth

The ongoing development of our Higher Education programme also had a number of successes. Highlights of our textbook publishing during the year included the ground-breaking Introduction to Applied Linear Algebra, by Stephen Boyd and Lieven Vandenberghe, which provides engineering students (and others) with the tools to understand modern, data-centric applications, and publication of the third edition of the much admired and widely used Introduction to Quantum Mechanics, by David Griffiths and Darrell Schroeter. 

We were also delighted to commission a major new textbook series, Fundamentals of Finance, which will represent a complete reworking of the current framework for teaching finance to MBA and MFin students. Written by leading authors at MIT and Boston University, including Nobel Laureate Robert Merton, the three-textbook series will be aimed at a global audience and is due for publication in 2020. It is a tribute to our Higher Education team’s restructuring of our textbook programme.

We agreed an innovative deal with Saudi Arabia, licensing an Arabic edition of Assessment for Teaching by Patrick Griffin, Emeritus Professor at the University of Melbourne. The textbook’s framework will become a cornerstone of assessment in Saudi Arabia and our Arabic translation will be the primary resource used in their teacher training programme. This shows how a blend of content and service is becoming critical to Academic’s publishing success.

In journals, we continued to focus on driving growth and, as described above, greater openness across our publishing. We expanded our prestigious list through new partnerships: from 2020 we will publish the Canadian Journal of Philosophy and the two journals of the Royal Musical Association, Journal of the Royal Musical Association and RMA Research Chronicle. Both partnerships complement our already strong presence in these areas, across both books and journals.

We were delighted to launch or commission several new journals during the year: Evolutionary Human Science; Data-Centric Engineering (with the support of the Lloyd’s Register Foundation); Wearable Technologies and Experimental Results – the latter an innovative approach to publishing research outputs that might not otherwise become part of the published record.

2018–19 was an excellent year for winning awards, from institutions as varied as the International Studies Association and the British Medical Association.”

While our primary focus is on university audiences, we believe a leading publisher like the Press should aim to reach a wider range of readers in key subject areas, especially when the issue of trust is such a hot topic in the media. In 2018–19 our revamped general publishing list enjoyed significant critical and sales successes. We expanded our commitment to audio books to help enhance accessibility even further.

There Is No Planet B, by Mike Berners-Lee, was one of the first science titles in our new programme. It received excellent press reviews, with the New Scientist calling it a ‘rallying cry for a generation worried that they will inherit a world shorn of nature’s wonders’.

Stand Out of Our Light: Freedom and Resistance in the Attention Economy, by James Williams, was selected by the President of Princeton University as the text that all freshmen would be required to read in the fall of 2019. The book was the inaugural winner of the Nine Dots Prize for innovative thinking and presents a timely warning of how digital business models compete for our time and attention, with a potentially devastating impact on how we lead our lives. With the digital version available as a free download, the book enjoyed an exceptionally high number of downloads and print sales, and garnered glowing reviews. 

Journals sales enjoyed a good year in general, with renewals well maintained globally. Sales of ebooks to libraries continued to drive our digital transition in research books publishing, especially through the rapid take-up of usage-driven models. We recorded our best ebooks sales year in China. Both traditional and internet retail performed well in the mature markets of North America, the UK, Western Europe and Australia, driven in part by the growth of our higher education textbook programme, where we continued to gain market share in the upper-level undergraduate area. 

We achieved this success in the context of an increasing rate of market change. The digital availability of information, combined with improving technologies, is accelerating the democratisation of knowledge, creating real opportunities to improve global research and learning outcomes but also posing challenges to existing business models. This is further exacerbated by the ongoing financial pressures felt by higher education institutes globally.

Our success in both academic and general publishing categories during the year reflects our commitment to the very highest quality of publishing. In a digital world, the Press’s rigorous peer review and editing process is a badge of excellence that supports the author and wider academic community while enhancing our identity and the value of our brand. We believe this will serve us well amid the revolutionary forces reshaping academic publishing.




Academic’s reputation for digital innovation was underscored during the year with the launch of Cambridge Elements – concise (20,000 to 30,000 words), original and peer-reviewed scholarly and scientific research, organised into focused series edited by leading scholars. Conceived from the start for a digital environment, Elements are hosted on Cambridge Core, our online publishing platform, and can be regularly updated, making them a dynamic reference source for graduate students, researchers and practitioners. They can be bought as paperbacks through print-on-demand. Elements include analytical surveys on the foundational building blocks of a discipline, original insights into frontier topics, and masterclasses and advanced tutorials on emerging topics. The concept has been enthusiastically received by potential series editors and authors, with over 40 new series commissioned during the year. Popular titles include Elements in the Philosophy of Religion and Making Policy in a Complex World.


Cambridge Open Engage: a new preprint platform

An important development during the year was the announcement of the Press’s plans to launch an innovative open platform for preprints – the latest step in our drive towards a sustainable, open future for academic publishing. The initiative, designed to boost the speed and impact of early work, will make research available to anyone with an internet connection, giving researchers and members of the wider public an early window into academic insights and analysis. Our first partner for the preprint service is the American Political Science Association (APSA), with which the Press has had a long and successful relationship. Steven Rathgeb Smith, Executive Director at APSA, said the platform was ‘an excellent complement to our existing publishing portfolio and provides important opportunities for APSA members to publish and share their research’. Submission to the wider platform will be available in 2020.

Laptop with Cambridge Open Enage website on screen

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