by Alison Shaw
30th July 2020

We are proud to have been a finalist for the inaugural University Press Redux Sustainability Award, launched by ALPSP and Cambridge University Press, which was awarded last week to the very worthy OECD and their SDG Pathfinder.

In her video, Mandy Hill (Managing Director of Academic Publishing, Cambridge University Press and award judge) discusses the three finalists’ submissions and highlights the need for publishers to work together to meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We hope you enjoy our video submission and learn something new about us.

This article highlights how the 17 SDGs resonate with our mission and organisational goals. For us, ‘publishing with a purpose’ means addressing poverty and challenging inequality, fighting for equal rights and good jobs and education, combatting climate change and improving sustainability. We have been championing these causes for decades and now, more than ever, our publishing is critical.

Background and mission

Addressing social challenges has been in our DNA since Policy Press was founded in 1996 and this mission is now broadened under Bristol University Press. Our publishing supports sustainable development from the global to the local, reflecting the SDGs by encompassing the Global North and the Global South.

One of our five guiding principles, and fundamental to our strategy, is addressing global social challenges, making us unique among university presses (UPs). Primarily championing the social sciences, our work is now reaching out to other disciplines. As a not-for-profit UP we extend scholarly boundaries by encouraging emerging sub-fields and multi/inter/transdisciplinary work, including developing the ideas of early career researchers and voices from beyond academia. Co-production plays a huge part in this, as seen in this article from our online magazine, Transforming Society, on addressing the challenge of urban sustainability, bringing to the fore the issues surrounding Goal 11.

We want our readers to really engage with our content – intellectually, emotionally, practically – thereby changing the way they do things, or by trying to improve policy and practice.

Our publishing

Since the publication of our first titles in Autumn 1995, our products have addressed sustainable development. Series include the forthcoming Key Issues in Social Justice: Voices from the Frontline, which critically explores issues of social justice, inclusion and equity from the perspectives of authors who themselves are from historically marginalised and minoritised communities, and the Global Migration and Social Change series which opens up the interdisciplinary terrain and develops new scholarship in migration and refugee studies, addressing Goal 10.

We amplify the content of series like these to a broader audience via Transforming Society, with articles such as Migration and the politics of life and death, and have also created spaces on our website dedicated to key SDG themes, including gender, the focus of Goal 5.

Our social mission is to disseminate research and evidence that makes an impact in the field and reaches the people who can truly make a difference. This is the reason why supporting research in developing countries and the Global South is a vital part of what we do.

Our scholarly trade programme publishes accessible books by academics and other professional experts, bringing issues of social, political and cultural significance to a wide readership. Titles include the award-winning Miseducation by Diane Reay which advocates a fairer system of good-quality education for all, herself working-class-turned-Cambridge-professor, as highlighted in Goal 4.

We believe in publishing with people who face social challenges, and not just publishing work about them. We include their voices and direct testimony through participatory, user-led and co-produced research, for example in our involvement with the AHRC Connected Communities research project. Partnerships and collaboration are essential if the SDGs are to be achieved, as highlighted in Goal 17.

Work for and by policy makers and practitioners is core to our strategy and we are proud to publish books that make a practical contribution like Knowledge, Policy and Power in International Development: a practical guide in collaboration with the Overseas Development Institute. We create freemium products for campaigning such as In Defence of Welfare 2, published with the Social Policy Association, where a free digital version was offered alongside the print edition.

Open Access is crucial to our vision because it encourages dissemination and reduces inequalities in the global access to knowledge. We have published 135 OA journal articles and over 60 books, including Tracing the Consequences of Child Poverty (Goal 1) and the International Handbook of Health Literacy (Goal 3).

For research on social challenges to be truly influential it needs to break free from traditional publishing cycles and publish quickly. Our new Rapid Responses and the COVID-19 Collection are key examples of this. One of our latest shorts, Too Hot to Handle? by Rebecca Willis examines how we can provide impactful democratic solutions to climate change; it is part of our Environment and Sustainability list which connects global discourses on climate change facts, specific policy responses and environmental law, relating to Goals 12 and 13.

Our journals engage with the SDGs, with perhaps the clearest example being the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Philip Alston’s use of the Journal of Poverty and Social Justice in his research and report on UK poverty published in 2018. Philip said: “The Journal of Poverty and Social Justice is clearly one of the best in the field, as I learned in preparing for my visit to the UK as UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights.”

We will soon be announcing two major new digital projects which will address our global social challenges agenda which will facilitate trans- and interdisciplinary work within and beyond academia internationally, engaging with indigenous and black world views, and responding to the SDGs.

Our engagement and impact

Our strategy aims to make academic research accessible to the wider public, practitioners and decision makers and this is particularly relevant for products that relate to the SDGs. Bringing research out of the academic ivory tower and making an impact, another of our five guiding principles, is an essential aim.

We publish two free online magazines. Mark Carrigan, University of Cambridge, said of our Futures of Work (Goal 8): “THIS is how you do digital engagement as a publisher, building platforms which amplify and consolidate existing research networks.Discover Society publishes short, accessible pieces of social research, commentary and analysis which was created by Gurminder K Bhambra, John Holmwood and Sue Scott who continue to manage its curation.

Our own Transforming Society magazine addresses global social challenges and focuses on our ‘publishing with a purpose’ mission. Articles by our authors and other contributors, podcasts and policy briefings all aim to have a social impact and a positive influence on policy decisions. Many of the articles are focused on the SDGs, including How effective are policy approaches in combatting human trafficking? and The hidden scourge of modern slavery.

Our books have been quoted by politicians, used in green papers and parliamentary briefings. Find out more about our impact through these impact case studies.

Our goal is to publish evidence-informed work that has an impact, furthering our understanding of the global social challenges we face and providing solutions to address them. Our ongoing challenge, and that of all publishers, is to do this in a way that supports real social change, not just debate, so we can really contribute to sustainable development globally.

Find out more about impact, influence and engagement at Bristol University Press here.

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The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blog post 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.

Image Credit: Paddy O Sullivan on Unsplash