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Editor's corner

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Photo by Davide Gorla (1 May 2012) via Flickr. Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Like us here at Sydney University Press, you are probably frustrated by the underrepresentation of women on Wikipedia, both as subjects and as editors. Wikipedia itself accepts that this gender bias exists, stating that not only do men make up the majority of Wikipedia editors, but that those male editors are also individually responsible for editing more articles than their female counterparts. While there are many and varied factors contributing to this, Wikipedia’s own attempts to redress the imbalance have been largely unsuccessful.

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A 1950s advertisement modified to promote a Wikipedia editing event. A drawing of a stylish woman has had her eyes, mouth and nose crossed out, with tongue-in-cheek caption indicating that her talents are wasted if she isn't on Wikipedia


It’s officially March, which means it’s officially Women’s History Month! At SUP, we’re very excited to be celebrating with a Wikipedia edit-a-thon. We’ll be getting together with students, staff and the wider community to improve the representation of Australian women in the world’s favourite reference work.

We all love Wikipedia. But did you know that it has a diversity problem? Multiple studies, by Wikipedia and by independent researchers, have found that women are badly underrepresented. Only between 9 and 12 percent of Wikipedia editors identify as women, and only about 16 percent of individual profiles on Wikipedia are about women.

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Australian poetry reaches ‘far and wide’!

The Australian Poetry Library site reaches thousands of poetry lovers worldwide, connecting users with research interests, study materials, long-lost memories and their favourite poems.

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The Sydney University Press team – (L to R) Hannah, Agata, Phil, Denise and Susan

It had been tentatively planned for almost 12 months, but last Friday the Sydney University Press team finally got to see another side of the publishing industry.

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Knowledge and books drawing by Frits Ahlefeldt, HikingArtist
Knowledge and books drawing by Frits Ahlefeldt, HikingArtist
Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The ‘Reinventing Scholarly Publishing’ symposium in March 2015 started a year of particularly active discussions in Australia about the future of scholarly publishing. The Canberra event was followed by a Sydney conference ‘Scholarly Communication Beyond Paywalls’ in July and another symposium in August, ‘Reclaiming the Knowledge Commons: The Ethics of Academic Publishing and the Futures of Research’, held at the NSW State Library. And the last one in the series, the 24th ‘National Scholarly Communications Forum’ took place on 7 September at The Australian National University, Canberra.

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As one of the objectives of my trip has been to work out how to assist academic authors with publishing books with wider appeal, I decided to spend some time with Icon Books, an independent publisher of thought-provoking nonfiction. Icon Books are best known for a series called ‘Introducing’ which makes complex topics accessible to wider audiences by means of good writing, real-life examples and graphic illustrations. They have also published many outstanding standalone nonfiction titles popularising economics, science, philosophy, psychology and other complex topics such as epigenetics.

As many of Icon Books authors are academics, I asked Kiera Jamison, Series Editor, and Duncan Heath, Editorial Director, how they manage the process of commissioning, manuscript development and editing of books that popularise serious research.

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Is there such a thing as a literary app? Is there a space for multimedia in works of literary quality? Writing about fiction, Richard Nash said that

The lack of video, the lack of audio, the lack of ways to change the forking outcomes of plot (what is rather crudely referred to as “interactivity”) is a feature of literature, not a bug. And, as it turns out, books are interactive. They’re recipes for the imagination. Conversely, video is restrictive—it tells you what things look like, what they sound like.

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The monograph remains the corner stone of scholarly publishing, especially in the humanities and social sciences, and it remains, despite the affordances associated with digital technologies, firmly wedged in the age of print. While the need to deliver content digitally and produce ebooks is generally accepted, we seem to be producing ebooks that are little more than digital copies of the printed codex. In many respects, they provide a less satisfactory experience for our readers: the ebooks are more difficult to read, annotate and quote from.

Complex academic writing lends itself to deep immersive reading which is problematic in an electronic format. Research shows that reading comprehension remains higher when books are read on paper rather than a computer screen or an ereader. While it is becoming increasingly easier to annotate ebooks, the lack of page numbers in ePub makes quoting difficult. Moreover, all too often books in the ePub format do not contain indexes and the reader, deprived of another important avenue of entry to the text, is expected to use the search function instead.

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In September 2012 a review of the Sydney University Press was undertaken to assess the value and viability of the press. As a result of the review, followed by discussions with senior academics at the University of Sydney, SUP has been undergoing an evolution in order to better support and facilitate the communication of the intellectual and research outputs of the University of Sydney and the Australian research community. The new vision for SUP is to become a leading scholarly publisher in Australia of books that advance knowledge and influence policy while supporting Sydney University’s brand as a research-intensive institution nationally and globally. At the same time, SUP aims to provide an avenue for Australian researchers to communicate their research to other scholars, policy-makers and the general public.

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Beyond thalidomide: birth defects explained=

By Dr Janet McCredie AM

Between 1958 and 1962, thousands of babies across the Western world were unaccountably born with a plethora of physical deformities, including short or absent limbs, ears and eyes, holes in the heart, blocked intestines, and/or absence or duplication of other internal organs.

At first glance, longitudinal reduction of limbs was the most obvious feature, but more serious, often lethal defects were hidden in other organs. Vital organs such as the ear, eye, heart, gut, and/or kidney were deformed or completely absent. The perinatal mortality rate of these babies was an alarming 40 percent.

Striking patterns emerged in the geography of this alarming epidemic. West Germany had thousands of deformed babies, while East Germany had none: they simply stopped at the Iron Curtain. Canada had over 150, but the USA had almost none. They stopped at the 49th parallel. Britain had over 400 cases, and the British Commonwealth was afflicted, for example Australia had 46 known cases.

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Politics and religion in the new century=

By Monica Purcell

With France becoming the fourteenth nation in the world to legalise same-sex marriage in May this year, rallies have exploded over Australia urging our parliament to do the same. Despite a clear and growing majority in support of same-sex marriage, our government seems unable to comfortably adapt, signalling some level of enduring commitment to the traditional Christian view of marriage. In a fascinating collection of essays titled Politics and religion in the new century (published in 2009) faith is explored practically, rather than theologically, in order to understand religious influence on political and social life.

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In 1870, Henry Chamberlain Russell became Government Astronomer for New South Wales and immediately began to prepare for detailed observations of the transit of Venus due to occur in 1874. Several sites were chosen for their weather conditions, and professional and amateur astronomers were sent to Goulburn, Eden, Woodford and the main observatory in Sydney. The observers included Professor Archibald Liversidge of the University, P. F. Adams, Surveyor-General, and Eccleston du Faur of the Survey Department, amongst others. Other observations were taken at Armidale and Raymond Terrace. The results of the observations were published by the Government Printer in 1892.

Sydney University Press has republished a facsimile of the book, including the 40 colour plates that include observations of the Transit from various locations, and photographs of the equipment used.

Transit of Venus 1874, by HC Russell

Following is an extract from the Introduction by Henry Russell.

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Household Words, volume 1

The 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens’ birthday on 7 February set off the whole year of celebrations taking place throughout the world, including Australia. While Dickens is widely known a writer and a journalist, his role as an editor is rarely mentioned. Yet he spent close to 25 years in the editor’s chair mentoring a new generation of writers and shaping the way Australia was perceived overseas.

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Charles Dickens' Australia

There could not have been a better person to talk about Dickens and stamps at the NSW Dickens Society’s lecture last Saturday than Susannah Fullerton. Apart from being a well-known lecturer, literary tour leader and author of Brief encounters: literary travellers in Australia 1836-1939, Susannah also collects stamps. And not just any stamps, but those depicting authors and literary characters.

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Staying power

Today across the NSW, health professionals are running programs promoting falls prevention in hospitals, community and residential aged care facilities as part of the April Falls Day, which was established in 2008 by Northern Sydney Central Coast Area Health Service (NSCCAHS).

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Reading Across the Pacific

One of the greatest benefits of working in publishing is the exposure to new ideas, often beyond one’s immediate circle of interest. Would I pick up a book on prostate cancer screening? Highly unlikely. And yet, since I have read the book, I have talked about it to my family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. In fact, to everyone, male or female, who has asked the innocuous question “What book are you working on?” Or even if they didn’t …

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Sunday 30th October marks the 100th anniversary of boat racing between the University of Sydney and the University of Melbourne.

The following extract is from Sydney University Sport 1852-2007: more than a club, by Geoffrey Sherington and Steve Georgakis.

The Boat Club
Rowing began in Sydney on the harbour in the early 1800s. Formal regattas commenced in 1827. Rowing soon became a popular sport and professional sculling championships were initiated by the 1850s.

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“Do you mind working for a German?” asked the blond thirty something man with a piercing blue stare. I was at a job interview. It happened a few years ago in Australia, thousands of miles away from Europe and over half-a-century after the end of the Second World War.

It was an unexpected question in the context of a Sydney suburb, but not entirely. I am Polish and the history of Polish–German/Germanic relationships is full of wars and battles stretching over a thousand years. Consciously or not, people carry historical knowledge as part of their identity, and this legacy affects how various communities and individuals have interacted with each other over the years.

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I have a confession to make – I am not a ‘sporty’ person. Given a choice between participating, being a spectator, watching sport on TV or reading a book (even if it is about sport), I would always go for the latter. During my school years, I ‘suffered’ through all the compulsory PE classes. Not surprisingly, sport usually remains on the periphery of my reality. But every now and then, it simply cannot be avoided.

In fact, a book on the history of sport at Sydney University was the first title I worked on when I joined Sydney University Press. (And it must have been the first book on sport that I have ever read!) A mighty volume, Sydney University Sport 1895–2007: more than a club by Geoff Sherington and Steve Georgakis is bursting with stories of the early days of clubs and games at the University.

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