Academic Publishing, Sustainability

Sustainability I – FSC certification

Following the advent of digital publishing at the start of the millennium, one of the key arguments to encourage the switch from print was ecological. Digital enthusiasts were quick to claim that using less paper and shipping fewer print books would help to save the environment. Maintaining sustainability in the publishing sector is, however, much more complex; and debates on sustainability began in the industry many years ago, even before digitisation was feasible on a mass scale. Today it has become one of the most pressing issues the industry has to address. Among the most important factors to consider is the carbon footprint: minimising a publisher’s carbon footprint has become the first priority when addressing sustainability targets across the whole industry. It exercises the minds of both trade and academic publishers, as well as paper manufacturers, printers, distributors and even authors and illustrators. A crucial way of achieving this is to build a circular economy which eliminates waste and re-uses resources wherever possible. The paper production industry, which arguably has been under pressure not to waste natural resources for longer than most others, has travelled the furthest distance in this respect; more than 70% of the paper produced in Europe uses pulp; and paper produced in this way can be re-used up to 7 times. Forestry in Europe has also been managed sustainably for the past decade, meaning that carbon dioxide emissions, the biggest problem for the paper manufacturing industry, are being mitigated by the continuing replenishment of the vegetation that combats them.

The FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) was set up to create a global sustainability accreditation in 1993, and along with other environmental standards, such as ISO 14001 and EMAS (EU Eco-Management and Audit Scheme) has closely supervised sustainability for nearly 30 years.

But how does FSC certification actually work?

The certificate is available to various industries, including paper and cardboard manufacturing; some very specific sector-specific guidance has to be observed in order to gain the award. A key aspect is the use only of wood derived from sustainable forestry, but there is much more to it than that. Frequently-audited Forest Management is only one of two main components that are necessary for a FSC certification; the other one is Chain of Custody certification. This ensures that any company involved in the processing of FSC certified products continues to observe specific regulations and uses checked FSC-labelled woods only. For publishers and printers to become FSC certified, the use of certified papers is obviously essential, but they also are required to use FSC certified printers and distributors. For a product to carry the FSC label at the point of sale, every stage of the process has to be covered by FSC certification – from the forest itself to the finished printed book.
For publishers requiring more information, a fact sheet can be downloaded here.

Many other companies in the supply chain – notably publishers themselves – have felt obliged to develop internal sustainability strategies and find solutions for reducing their own carbon footprint. This has included the move to PoD [Print on Demand] to reduce the numbers of books printed unnecessarily, collaboration with printing companies who in turn are using sustainable methods and ensuring that materials such as inks, packaging and wrapping are as environmentally-friendly as possible; and the use of a sustainable energy supply.

To develop an industrywide sustainability strategy, the Publishers Association launched a Sustainability Taskforce in early 2020. We will talk a bit more about the aims of this in another blog post…

[Written by Annika Bennett, Gold Leaf]

General, Lecturers, pedagogy

The Covid-19 crisis: views of a lecturer

We talked to Dr. Oliver Lindemann, Assistant Professor for Research Methods and Techniques at the Department of Psychology, Education & Child Studies, Erasmus University Rotterdam in The Netherlands

(c) Oliver Lindemann

Tell me a little about your University and the current situation

Erasmus University grew out of the “Netherlands School of Commerce”, which was founded in 1913 and has always been one of the world’s top-ranked Business Schools. In 1966 a Medical Faculty was added and the “full” university under its current name was established in 1973. To this day, the university focusses on Medical, Cultural and Social Sciences and the Business School (RSM) remains a big influence on the university’s overall reputation. In recent years, the Rotterdam School of Social Science and Behaviour has enrolled more students than the Business School. Psychology is the strongest subject within this school by some distance. The percentage of foreign students is high. They come mainly from Germany and the Asian countries.  

Which courses do you teach?

I teach research methods and statistics for Social Sciences across the school. Most of my students are Psychology students but some study other disciplines, mainly Pedagogy. I teach both post- and undergraduate students and supervise a small group of PhD students.
Because my courses are compulsory, typically 400-500 students attend my lectures. In the past year, we’ve even had lectures of more than 1,000 students. Levels of knowledge and interest in my subject are diverse and as the cohorts are also large it is difficult to teach in a way that caters for everyone. Consequently, I record my lectures and ask as many students as possible to watch them online and only attend in person if they must. It’s mainly “talk and chalk”, so it makes little difference to the quality whether I tape a lecture or conduct it as a “live show”.
The students also attend tutorials in groups of about 20 students. There they discuss and practise the methods learned in the lecture.  Since the lockdown this has become much more difficult, because tutors have to support students on a one-to-one basis and provide feedback.  

How has the current situation impacted your teaching and which measures have you taken?

The Erasmus University moved to online teaching and learning when the lockdown began in March. There will be no face-to-face teaching before the summer; all lecturers have been advised to prepare online autumn lectures, too.
I have weekly virtual 1-to-1 catch-ups with the 7 or so BA and MA students whom I am currently supervising; others can book short Zoom calls with me via my website. The students need more frequent contact now because they can’t see me on campus or exchange informal opinions about their work with each other. I also offer online workshops for graduate students and the open science community Rotterdam. We discuss methodological issues of psychology or I introduce new statistical approaches. Usually, these webinars attract 20 – 40 participants.
Our university uses Microsoft Teams and Zoom for online teaching. It is working well, though in webinars you have to set very strict rules. All participants are asked to wear headphones where possible and they are being put on mute; they can ask questions through the chat function. If more than 20 people attend an online session, I try to appoint one “assistant” (a student on the course or someone I ask to join specially) to keep an eye on the chat and  summarise the questions for me, so I can focus on the lecture itself.  Mostly it works out well.

What are the biggest challenges for yourself and the students?

The students’ biggest challenge is non-academic: they face real financial problems. Nearly all of them work to cover their daily expenses, and most typical student jobs no longer exist. Some of my overseas students have had to return to their home countries because they couldn’t make ends meet.
The other big problem is the lack of a peer group. It is a key principle here at the Erasmus University Rotterdam to encourage independent learning by small groups. Some students are very good at scheduling learning groups via Zoom to stay in touch with their peers, but others really struggle. We may not be able to motivate them enough to continue.
Teaching doesn’t present as great a challenge as research to me. I an experimental psychologist and I usually conduct empirical research on participants in labs, which is currently impossible. Students trying to complete their theses suffer similarly; a certain amount of research can be conducted via (online) questionnaires, but the validity of this kind of research is limited.

What about access to learning and teaching materials? How supportive has the Library been?

The library was closed for several weeks but has recently re-opened. It now admits a limited number of patrons. It has always had an electronic-preferred policy, so we always have access to digital resources; currently there are some additional electronic resources, but only for a limited time. It’s my understanding that publishers have helped with this. The library has made extra funding available for additional digital resources we may require for teaching
The library’s digital learning team has been very supportive throughout the crisis, for instance, in getting Zoom licences rolled out in a very short time. They are now busy trying to develop solutions for online exams. Moreover, the university has a Media Lab – quite a professional operation with proper recording studio facilities – but the staff there were overworked even before the crisis, so there is now little chance of getting a window of opportunity there. 
The students suffered when the library was closed.  Rents in Rotterdam are horrendous, so students tend to live in tiny rooms that can barely contain a bed, a wardrobe and a bike, and they often don’t have broadband at home. Therefore, they rely on working space and Wi-Fi in the library. 

Has the use of materials changed?

I have not changed the textbooks and other materials I use for teaching yet. However, it has become even more important only to use material that is available online. For the lecture I am preparing for the autumn – the Philosophy of Science – there are some print titles on the reading list. If I can’t find digital versions I shall replace them with alternatives. It gives me an opportunity to update my reading lists!
I have noticed that it’s become necessary to prepare more detailed exercise notes for tutorials. I normally just distribute some exercises (and solutions) and any questions are being discussed with the tutors; now I have to include step-by-step guides and provide more explanation to ensure the students understand what they need to do. That is very time-consuming for all lectures.
Many publishers offer good learning platforms to support their textbooks. These are really helping my teaching now. The main obstacle is the diversity of the platforms themselves. Each one has different navigability, DRM etc. It would be really helpful if they could be more standardised.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I guess this crisis will have a long-term impact on remote working, especially for non-academic staff, who until now were used to regular office hours. I hope it will become more normal for them to work from home, as academics have done for many years.
I have the feeling that psychological research is currently focusing more on reviews and meta-analysis. Some of my colleagues are finally completing that textbook they have always meant to write.
Overall, the greatest drawback for students is the breakdown of peer-learning. Even the best lecturer in the world cannot replace the experience of learning with and from your peers.

Tell us a little about yourself

I graduated in Psychology from the University of Trier (Germany) and after completing my PhD at the University of Groningen, I worked in the field of numeric cognition at the Radboud Universities Nijmegen and the University of Potsdam before starting my current position in Rotterdam three years ago. I am married and in my spare time I enjoy listening to classical and jazz music. I love cooking (and eating!) and am a keen supporter of the German football club Borussia Dortmund.

[Written by Annika Bennett, Gold Leaf]

Bookselling, Deutsch, Services

“Buy local” during Covid-19 – How German booksellers encourage local shopping online; and what is happening in the UK

Since the 18th of March 2020, all non-essential shops in Germany have been closed owing to the current Covid-19 crisis. Like everywhere else in the world, this affects small shops in particular and even though many offer click & collect or delivery services for their products, the danger of the vast majority of customers simply buying from one of the online giants is incredibly high. Small shops (with less than 800 m3 of shop floor) and all bookshops are now due to reopen from today, but they will have to operate under strict hygiene rules and the expected footfall will remain low.

To inform the consumers about their options and ways to support local shops, the German bookshop chains Thalia Mayersche and Osiander teamed up and started the initiative www.shopdaheim.de (which translates into “shop at home”) about 10 days after the closures. Initially, it was a database of about 1,000 bookshops – you are able to search by postcode or place name and see all the local shops that offer some kind of delivery or collection service locally. Within 2 weeks, nearly all of the 3,000 bookshops in the country joined and now – after 4 weeks – 10,000 shops in 41 industries are listed. The site experiences more than 100,000 views a day (at peak times up to half a million) and has become such a success that recently the Austrian equivalent www.shopdaheim.at was launched.

The site still has its main focus on bookshops, but includes shops that sell confectionary, cosmetics, baby products, flowers, perfumes, fashion, sports and more. Several chains (Intersport, DHL, Douglas perfumes, the drug store chain DM and Blume2000, a flower shop chain) are contributing to the marketing and PR of the site whilst the original founders have invested a 6-digit Euro sum into the site. Currently, the listing of a shop is free of charge, but it might be possible that the display of a shop logo or inclusion into marketing campaigns will become chargeable in future – the owners are planning to keep the platform running; after all, local shops having a shared platform to encourage consumers to shop locally is a good idea at the best of times.

shopdaheim Logo

The UK is less fortunate than Germany. Not only are all the bookshops closed, but some of the distributors have closed down their operations and furloughed their staff.  Gardners, one of the UK’s leading book wholesalers and distributors, closed before the end of March and Amazon is no longer stocking new titles, as it says it must focus on storing and distributing more essential products. It’s still possible to buy some print titles direct from online booksellers such as Waterstones and some publishers are also selling print direct – Bloomsbury, for example, has a well-established online ordering service for both print and electronic books which so far it has continued to maintain.  Many online sellers are also making extra promotional efforts to sell e-books; it will be interesting to see if this results in another spike in e-book purchase, which has long plateaued at around 10% of all sales in the trade sector. 

Libraries are also closed but also promoting their digital services. The British Library has contacted all its members to explain how to access its huge resource of online collections. Some public libraries are still making their online collections available, but others have closed down their services altogether. 

Academic libraries in the UK are also all closed, but their staff are still working from home and making Herculean efforts to provide as extensive a service as possible to all their patrons – students, lecturers and researchers.  Most have built up extensive online collections over the past twenty years which have now become an even more valuable resource than they were prior to the lockdown, but users still need support when accessing these and help in finding exactly the materials they want. 

When the lockdown is relaxed, it is difficult to predict which businesses will become casualties. In recent years, the UK has enjoyed a resurgence of both small independent bookshops and independent literary publishers.  Many of these businesses are run on a shoestring, propelled by enthusiasm and love for books rather than any more concrete financial backing. Our culture would be the poorer if we were to lose them, so it will be worth making an extra effort to support them when they are able to trade again. In the meantime, we could do worse than set up our own version of “Shopdaheim” in the UK.

[Written by Annika Bennett and Linda Bennett, Gold Leaf]

Policy, Universities

KEF – Knowledge Exchange Framework: what is it?

In November 2017, the UK government asked HEFCE (now UKRI / Research England) to introduce a “Knowledge Exchange Framework” [KEF] to measure effective collaboration and knowledge exchange with industry and business. It is designed to complement the already established REF[1] and TEF[2] and to evaluate the contribution universities make to the exploitation of knowledge.

After a consultation and pilots run with 21 universities in 2019, the KEF decisions report and metrics were published on 16 January 2020, followed by the Clustering and Narrative Templates report on 2 March 2020. In these reports, detailed information about the metrics and procedures can be found. The main thing to be aware of is that -unlike the REF and the TEF – it is NOT an excellence framework which measures quality. It is a purely quantitative ranking exercise that – certainly at first – will be purely of informative character.

The first iteration of the KEF will be launched in the current academic year (2019/2020) with Higher Education Institutions [HEIs] submitting their narratives between now and the end of May 2020 and results to be published in summer 2020. Similar to the TEF, the KEF will take a metrics-driven approach, though with a narrative component consisting of three brief statements in the areas of institutional context, local growth and regeneration and public and community engagement. The metrics are based on existing data sources that are available to UKRI and do not have to be submitted by the universities; the metrics will automatically be calculated but not automatically be published unless the institutions opted to participate (i.e. submitted a narrative).  In the first year, participation is not compulsory, but it is highly likely that full participation will become a condition for Research England funding in future.

The key perspectives and metrics used will be

  • Research Partnerships (Contribution to collaborative research and Co-authorship with non -academic partners)
  • Working with business (HE-BCI[3] Contract research income with SME and non-SME business and HE-BCI Consultancy income with SME and non-SME business)
  • Working with the public and third sector (HE-BCI Contract research income with the public and third sector and HE-BCI Consultancy income with the public and third sector)
  • Skills, enterprise and entrepreneurship (HE-BCI CPD/CE income, HE-BCI CPD/CE learner days delivered and HE-BCI Graduate start-ups rate)
  • Local growth and regeneration (Regeneration and development income from all sources and additional narrative)
  • IP and Commercialisation (Estimated current turnover of all active firms, average external investment and Licensing and other IP income)
  • Public and community engagement (Provisional score based on self-assessment developed with NCCPE[4] and additional narrative)

For most metrics, a three-year average will be used.

In order to make the data comparable, HEIs will be split into clusters with individual benchmarks for each cluster. The following clusters are being used in the initial year:

  • Cluster E: Large universities with broad discipline portfolio across both STEM and non-STEM generating excellent research across all disciplines.
  • Cluster J: Mid-sized universities with more of a teaching focus (although research is still in evidence) and academic activities across STEM and non-STEM Disciplines
  • Cluster M: Smaller universities, often with a teaching focus
  • Cluster V: Very large, very high research intensive and broad-discipline universities undertaking significant amounts of excellent research.
  • Cluster X: Large, high research intensive and broad-discipline universities undertaking a significant amount of excellent research
  • Arts specialists: Specialist institutions covering arts, music and drama
  • STEM specialists: Specialist institutions covering science, technology, engineering and mathematics

For the publishing industry the metric “Co-authorship with non-academic partners” will be the only relevant one; however, it is interesting to see that this metric is the only one for which no data source has yet been found. And how should there be? No-one is collecting this data and there is certainly no such thing as a central place for comparison of this. Therefore, it remains to be seen whether this metric will survive or whether it will just become a part of the narrative and therefore based on anecdotal evidence.

 Like any metrics-based system, there are different ways of looking at the data and variation of interpretation. The KEF will create a numeric ranking system of universities’ interaction with business and the public, but how meaningful this will be and what exactly it will tell us, is unclear.

[Written by Annika Bennett, Gold Leaf]


[1] Research Excellence Framework

[2] Teaching Excellence Framework

[3] Higher Education Business & Community Interaction (HE-BCI) survey

[4] National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement

Academic Publishing, Apprentices, Deutsch

Apprenticeships in academic publishing – part 3: Germany

For the past two weeks this blog has focused on apprenticeships in academic publishing. In earlier blog posts, we talked about the – relatively new – system of apprenticeships in the UK.

Today, we would like to look at Germany, where the apprenticeship scheme has been long established and where apprentices have worked in publishing for many decades. Of course, apprentices have been learning the skills of certain trades for centuries, but a standardised apprenticeship scheme was first introduced in the Germany in the 1920s. Then, many trades applied standards that were thereafter recognised country-wide and guaranteed that each apprentice learned certain basics of his or her trade within the apprenticeship scheme. Since then, the standard length of an apprenticeship has been established as 3 years (some of them can be shortened under certain conditions); and so-called “Berufsschule” (a kind of FE college) is compulsory for each apprentice. Usually, apprentices will spend between one and two days a week at school, and the rest of the time in the companies to which they have been apprenticed. During the school time, they study subjects relevant to their trade, but are also taught English as a foreign language; and German, Politics and Maths, to ensure a rounded general knowledge. At the end of their apprenticeship they have to sit exams – both academic ones (at school) and practical ones (usually a final piece of work that is judged by an external jury). They then get their formal qualification, which is nationally recognised. Apprentices in Germany receive a basic salary from the company that employs them, and their tutor is usually their manager within the company.

In some trades, it is possible – or even necessary if you want to work as self-employed and/or train apprentices yourself – to add a higher-level “Meister” (master craftsman) qualification in the same profession.  It requires study in Business Studies, Law and Pedagogy, as well as becoming proficient in the expert knowledge and skills of the trade.

Apprentices first joined German publishing companies in the 1950s, when a national curriculum for the profession, “Kaufmann im Zeitschriftenverlag” (businessman in magazine publishing) was established. It didn’t take long for non-magazine publishers to follow suit and soon the job title was changed into “Verlagskaufmann” (Business Administration, Publishing). This changed again several times until in 2006, the current name of “Medienkaufmann/-frau Digital und Print” (Media Business Administration for digital and print) was established.

Therefore, German publishing companies have been employing and training apprentices for several decades and they are an integral part of each publishing company.

To find out more details we spoke to Nadine, who started her 3 years’ apprenticeship with a German pharmaceutical publisher in autumn 2019. (She wishes not to be named in full and asked for her employer to remain anonymous)

“I am doing an apprenticeship as ‘Medienkauffrau Digital und Print’ (Media Business Administration for digital and print) with an addition qualification in Media Economics, publishing. The main focus of my apprenticeship is the production of different kind of media, but I also learn about the planning, marketing, finances and many more things. The company I work in mainly publishes academic books and journals, and so far I have been very involved in the marketing of products and advertising sales. However, as an apprentice I change departments frequently, and even within each department the kind of jobs I have vary hugely. This ensures that I learn about the publishing process and the many different departments that contribute to a successful product. At the end of my apprenticeship, I am expected to know how different departments and workflows relate and I should be able to work in any part of the publishing process. It means that one day I may be analysing sales figures and, on another day, I am looking through a selection of freebies to send to customers. That’s what I enjoy about my apprenticeship – I find it interesting to work on a journal that contains specialist knowledge.  Even if most of the content is too specific for me to understand, I have found many interesting articles that have helped me already.
Before I started my apprenticeship, I completed my “Abitur” (A-Levels) at a Sixth Form that specialised in Design and Media. A-Levels were necessary for the apprenticeship, but the main reason for completing them was to keep my options open for the future. At “Berufsschule” (college) I go into a special class for apprentices who are working for additional qualifications: we are also being taught Business English, presentation techniques and rhetoric, and the handling of New Media. In addition to this, we all learn about Business Administration, industry-relevant law, production (for example we learn about paper quality and printing costs), budgeting, multimedia (programmes like Photoshop or InDesign), design and skills in computer applications such as Excel or Access.
I enjoy learning all of these things because they have a relevance to what I do in my job.  A university degree was not something I considered, because I didn’t want to learn purely academic subjects any longer.
The apprenticeship is meeting my expectations; it is never boring, and I get to do a variety of tasks. In my company the apprentices are continually being challenged but never overburdened, and it is always ok to make mistakes, too.
I would definitely recommend an apprenticeship like mine, especially to people who love to read. It is exciting to see how a product is being developed and to see it through from planning to sales. Also, this apprenticeship allows you to work in any department of a publishing house and to follow your strengths. That’s also my plan for the future: I hope I can stay at the company when I finish my apprenticeship, but I do not yet know which department I will want to work in, because I haven’t experienced all of them yet.”

[Written by Annika Bennett, Gold Leaf]

Academic Publishing, Apprentices

Apprenticeships in academic publishing – Part 2: The Apprentices

In last week’s blog post, we gave an overview over the UK apprenticeship scheme and explained how apprenticeships are a valuable addition to Academic Publishing.

This week we have asked some apprentices to speak for themselves. Gerda Lukosiunaite from the Royal College of Physicians [RCP] and Kaya Spencer from Cambridge University Press [CUP] kindly agreed to tell us about their experiences.

When talking about their experiences as apprentices, both Gerda and Kaya were full of enthusiasm. They both found themselves in similar positions: they had finished school and were unsure about what they wanted to do next. Gerda had been made aware of the apprenticeship scheme by a friend and decided to take that route to become a dental nurse. After qualifying, she decided that she would prefer a more office-based job; discovering that the RCP was looking for an apprentice in its publications department, Gerda decided to apply. She got the place and worked on the RCP’s medical journals and monograph publications. She wasn’t sure what to expect from working in a publishing environment.  She hadn’t really considered publishing before, but found she wholeheartedly enjoyed it. “I never thought I would work in publishing, because I always assumed that you would need a lot of experience to get into it. I was absolutely thrilled when I learned I had got the apprenticeship position in the RCP’s publications department. It was such a great place to be and I was very involved in most of the tasks there: I did some basic admin, arranged for meetings and travel for the team, I was responsible for copyright permissions and liaison with the print room and was even allowed to do some proof-reading  and attend editorial meetings. The apprenticeship did exceed my expectations and I have loved working for the RCP so much, that I have recently changed to a permanent role as Membership Engagement Coordinator. I am still able to finish my apprenticeship in Business Administration at the same time”.

When she finished Sixth Form, Kaya had never imagined that she would work in publishing. “I wasn’t quite sure what to do after my A-Levels and wanted to set myself apart from graduates going for similar jobs to me. After working in some part-time jobs for a while, I was very excited to see the apprenticeship advertised on the CUP website. I had previously unsuccessfully applied for an Editorial Assistant role with the Press, but getting a place as an apprentice was fantastic, because not only was I able to get into a publishing job, it also allowed me to gain another formal qualification. I did my first apprenticeship in recruitment as an interview coordinator, where I worked with colleagues at all levels; this enabled me to gain great knowledge of the Press and a better understanding of the business as a whole – the different kinds of jobs people do, from entry-level positions to board members.”

Kaya finished her Business Administration apprenticeship within the HR department at CUP 4 years ago and has continued to work at the Press. She is currently a Communications and Community Executive and has recently started on a degree-level apprenticeship. The “Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship” [CMDA] is provided by the Open University and runs for the duration of 4 years alongside her current role, offering her continuous development whilst working. “This is a great opportunity to develop myself and build on the skills I already have as well as gain more skills in the managerial area.”
Looking to the future, Kaya says she would like to use the skills and knowledge she has gained to move into a managerial role where she can continue to help others. “I hope to develop the CSR programme at the Press that supports social mobility in Cambridge. I would definitely recommend apprenticeships to young people – we actively promote them to local schools in our area, as we feel apprenticeships are a great alternative to university and an invaluable opportunity to gain more skills whilst gaining real experience.”

Gerda also has ambitions beyond her apprenticeship. She has developed a keen interest in marketing and would like to develop her skills in this area. As she says, “it is never too late to go to university. I may well one day decide to do a marketing degree, but then I will be 100% sure that’s what I want to do and the money and efforts that I put into this degree will be well placed and thought through.”

Many thanks to Gerda Lukosiunaite (Royal College of Physicians) and Kaya Spencer (Cambridge University Press).

We also spoke to an apprentice in Germany, where the apprenticeship scheme has been well established for several decades – look out for our next blog post, where you will be able to read all about it.

[Written by Annika Bennett, Gold Leaf]