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Penny Freedman

Whether it’s your first book or your tenth, writing up a proposal for it can seem like a daunting task. Tomas, a commissioning editor at Palgrave makes it easier by breaking down the various components that come together to form the best book proposals.

By: Tomas René, Commissioning Editor for Palgrave Macmillan 

A book proposal is really your chance to ‘sell’ your project, so it’s important to be as clear and engaging as possible right from the start.  Below is a step-by-step guide, taking you through the various sections of Palgrave’s proposal template.

Name and affiliation

Surprisingly, these details are often missing from proposals that we receive! They are helpful for our quick reference; and their absence immediately creates the impression of an incomplete proposal. Listing an affiliation makes the proposal seem stronger from the off.

Proposed title and subtitle

The title should be as descriptive as possible. It should prioritise keywords: it’s become increasingly important for books to be searchable online (on search engines and on websites like Amazon, and in library catalogues, and so on) so we need to ensure that the main titles of our books are as descriptive as possible, and contain the search terms that will be used to locate the book. It should, however, avoid jargon, which may be off-putting to potential readers.

A book’s title isn’t set in stone at proposal stage, obviously – there will be opportunities to revise it later on – but a strong, clear title provides an editor with an easier way in assessing a proposal.

Brief description of the project’s scope and content

This is essentially the ‘elevator pitch’ of the proposal form. Begin with a few paragraphs briefly summarising your project’s main aims and argument. A good proposal will give a clear idea of the key terms/concepts to be discussed, and, if relevant to your project, the geographical scope your project will be covering, the date range that the project will encompass, and any key figures you’ll be looking at.

Proposed content

This is really the ‘meat’ of the proposal. Having briefly summarised your project in the previous section, this is to give us a more detailed idea of the project’s intended structure and, should the proposal be sent out for peer review, it will give the reader a sense of the quality of the scholarship.

If sample material is available at this stage, we’d ask you to attach this to your e-mail along with the proposal. In the proposal form itself, we’d ask you to provide a detailed synopsis of each chapter – as a rough guide, we’d be looking for at least half a page per chapter, but the more information you can provide at this stage the better. It’s important to demonstrate how the argument progresses across chapters, and how the project coheres.

Market

We’re an academic publisher: it’s likely that the main audience for your project will be academic researchers and upper-level postgraduate students (or undergraduate students if it’s a textbook). It’s important to be realistic with your expectations in this section – the majority of our books aren’t intended to reach ‘the interested general reader’ in the first instance, or to sell hundreds of thousands of copies in Waterstone’s or Barnes and Noble.

Competition

This section doesn’t necessarily call for an exhaustive list of projects that are directly competing with yours – it can be a summary of relevant titles that gives us a sense of existing scholarship in your field, and highlights gaps in the market.

This part of the proposal is a chance to distinguish your book from existing publications and to describe its unique selling points. A strong proposal will give a clear answer to the following questions: What does your project bring to the field that is new? How is it different to what’s been published before? What makes it an original and necessary intervention?

Additional information

Much of this section of the proposal form is self-explanatory, so a few key points are listed below:

Length. This doesn’t need to be completely accurate at this stage, but we do need a ballpark estimate. Take a look at previous publications or contact an editor to get a sense of a proposed book’s appropriate length. (Do also bear in mind our shorter monograph format, Pivot, which allows us to publish work of between 25-50,000 words.) If your project is a monograph emerging from PhD research, we would expect the project to be substantially revised from thesis form – removing the ‘literature review’ sections of the dissertation may bring the word count down, though if you’re carrying out new research for the monograph, that may increase it, so do factor these things in.

Previously-published material. As our remit is to publish new scholarly research, there is a limit on the amount of material that’s already been published elsewhere (e.g. as chapters or articles). Also, we have specific rights requirements to be able to reproduce chapters or articles as part of our eBooks. So it’s important for us to know at this stage how much of your manuscript has been, or will be, published elsewhere, and which publishers are involved.

Permissions. From an editorial point of view, permissions are probably the most time-consuming aspect of getting a book into production, so it’s useful for us to have an idea even at this early stage of how much third-party material may be included in your project. There is room for negotiation about how many illustrations are included, for example, but the necessity for permissions may affect this. (On illustrations, it’s also worth bearing in mind that each illustration will increase the book’s length, so if the number of these is particularly high it may factor into the discussion about the book’s word count.)

Timeline. This varies from project to project. At this stage, the most important thing is to be realistic – i.e. don’t put down a timeline that is in reality not achievable!

Peer reviewers. Do avoid putting your colleagues or PhD examiners in this section. The peer reviewers you suggest can also be an indication of how well you know the field more broadly.

Why did you choose to submit to Palgrave? This section helps us to get a sense of why your project could be a fit for us specifically. A strong proposal might flag up similar titles we’ve published previously, or particular series with which your project could fit.

Author information. Be sure to highlight relevant previous publications, whether chapters or journals, as well as any associations or research groups of which you’re a member, and your teaching experience in the area.

Remember, you don’t have to wait until you have a full, perfectly-formed proposal before contacting an editor. If there’s anything you’re unsure about or would like advice about along the way, do feel free to get in touch with the relevant commissioning editor, and we’ll be glad to advise you.

If you’re not sure who the relevant editor for your project is, a comprehensive list of Palgrave editors can be found here.

Interested in publishing a book, but unsure of who to publish with? Learn about our various imprints.

Featured image:  SIR JAMES KNOTT ROOM by summonedbyfells. CC 2.0 via Flickr.

Interested in learning more about the facts behind the stories you read from the media? Each month we’re pulling some of the major headlines from the news, and pairing them with research articles related to the topic. With the power of SharedIt, you’ll be able to read full journal articles and share them with others!

By Steven Inchcoombe, Chief Publishing Officer, Springer Nature

At Springer Nature every week is Peer Review Week.

Each week our dedicated in-house editorial staff spend thousands of hours co-ordinating the process of peer review, to ensure and improve the quality of the scientific literature we publish and in doing so, advance discovery. We support our Editors in Chief, Editorial Board Members, Section Editors, peer reviewers and authors by providing guidance and systems to enable them to improve manuscripts. Furthermore, we’re trialling innovative new practices through small-scale pilots, while also exploring grander ideas such as the potential role of Artificial Intelligence.

But as it’s so integral to what we do and the service we provide for our authors, its not something we  shout about every week. Therefore, Peer Review Week 2017, an annual celebration of the essential role that peer review plays in maintaining scientific quality, provides the perfect opportunity for us to update the academic community on what we’re doing, and to celebrate the work of the peer reviewers who generously give their time to examine manuscripts, offering help and advice.

Transparency in Review

The theme of this years’ Peer Review Week is Transparency in Review.  BMC, part of Springer Nature, was one of the pioneers of open peer review and earlier this year, issued a report based on the discussions at the SpotOn conference in London that examined how peer review might be improved for future generations. The report is well worth reading – it offers key recommendations to the academic community that include finding and inventing new ways of identifying, verifying and inviting peer reviewers; investing in reviewer training programs, and recognizing reviewers.

This year, BMC has also been experimenting with more new initiatives to improve transparency in peer review. If successful, these pilot projects could become standard offerings across Springer Nature.

Registered Reports is a good example. This is a new publication format in which the research question and the quality of methodology are peer reviewed before the data is collected and analysed and has been endorsed by Chris Chambers, Chair of the Centre for Open Science Registered Reports Committee, said: “This is a tremendous step forward for transparency and reproducibility in medical research. BMC Medicine will be the first major medical journal to offer Registered Reports, and the first to adopt a model specially tailored for clinical trials. The impact of this advance is potentially game-changing, eliminating hidden outcome switching and publication bias against negative results.”

I’m also pleased to announce that Genome Biology is following in the footsteps of other journals including Nature Communications to offer an option for transparent peer review.

Other developments

Time and time again, researchers tell us that they don’t receive enough training in how to conduct thorough and constructive peer review. Which is why this week, we’ve announced that we are launching a new free online course called Focus on Peer Review.

‘Focus on Peer Review’, on the Nature Masterclasses platform, features video interviews with Nature Research journal editors, experienced peer reviewers, and published authors. The course contains key and relevant insight into the complexities of peer review, going beyond the usual ‘how-to’ training available elsewhere. The course is made up of 4 modules, which you can either work through in a single sitting or use it as a ‘dip in and out’ reference resource. Total course duration, including reflection time, is around 3 hours.

On completion of the course, participants will have the opportunity to download a Nature Masterclasses course completion certificate. If you’re interested, simply register on the Nature Masterclasses website.

Update from last year

Finally, I’d like to give a happy update from one initiative that we launched last year. In 2016 we announced that a Springer journal, Environmental Earth Sciences, would enable people in developing countries to gain access to safe drinking water. For every review completed for a paper in the journal in 2017, Springer Nature donated one household water filter – on behalf of the peer reviewers of this journal – to the non-profit humanitarian organization Filter of Hope.

I’m delighted to say that since the inception of our partnership with Filter of Hope, over 600 filters have been distributed to the countries of Liberia, Nicaragua, Haiti, Honduras, Russia, Cuba and India. The water filters remove the bacteria, protozoa and micro-organisms from contaminated water sources making it completely safe to drink. This is a wonderful example of peer review making a real-world difference.

**

At Springer Nature we are constantly striving to advance discovery though the acceleration of scientific research and development, investing in technology to ensure ongoing quality and a better user experience, and by positively contributing to the scientific ecosystem that includes researchers, editors, librarians, funders, authors, publishers and networks.  And an enhanced, improved peer review system which is transparent and gives reviewers the recognition they deserve is a fundamental part of this.  I’m delighted that in 2017 we have explored and introduced new ways to make the process more transparent, to ensure our reviewers get the recognition they deserve, as well as developed new free tools and services, in the hope of serving our customer better. I’m looking forward to updating you on the improvements we’ll have seen by Peer Review Week 2018!

We’re excited to have the opportunity to spotlight the International Chemical Identifer (InChI), a project of IUPAC and the InChI Trust. This descriptor aims to make naming conventions for chemical compounds and reactions more streamlined. Here, Josef Eiblmaier, Valentina Eigner-Pitto, Hans Kraut from InfoChem and Samuel Winthrop, an expert in the field, explain how InChI is helping researchers standardize results and how Springer Nature chemical content will be more readily available to the public.

Written by Josef Eiblmaier, Valentina Eigner-Pitto, Hans Kraut, and Samuel Winthrop

What’s in a name? Among chemical substances – quite a lot. As researchers continue to elucidate the structures of compounds, synthesise new molecules, and work out the chemical building blocks of the world we live in, an ever-growing list of names and naming conventions complicate the efforts to establish standards that science relies upon.

DOI for chemicals

As computational methods are becoming a vital part of research, a standard yet practical way to describe chemical substances becomes even more essential – a machine-readable standard needs specific rules to be useful and efficient!

Introducing InChIAn InChI is a string of characters derived solely from a structural representation of a chemical substance that is capable of uniquely representing the chemical substance and serving as its unique digital ‘signature’. Just like how a DOI relates to a specific article or chapter, and only that chapter, an individual InChI will uniquely identify a chemical substance, without ambiguity, providing a precise, robust, structure-derived tag for chemical substances.

Stephen Heller, one of the creators of InChi says: “Over time, chemists have created a Tower of Babel of chemical names. Due to creation of vast amounts of information in electronic form, it is a nightmare to locate information and data.  Having different names for the same chemical makes it very difficult to find all the necessary information chemists need for their work.  Hence NIST* and IUPAC** developed the InChI algorithm and made it freely available as Open Source so that chemists could use it free of charge. We believe strongly that this is the only way InChI can be used by all and can become a standard.”

*,** NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) is a US agency that defines standards and IUPAC is the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry.

An example InChI (in this case, for ethanol):

InChI=1/C2H6O/c1-2-3/h3H,2H2,1H

However, these strings can get extremely long. To simplify indexing chemical structures in databases, and to make chemical structures easily searchable on the Internet, the InChIKey– a hashed version of the string reducing it to a more manageable 27 characters, is used.

Some examples of InChIs for commonly used chemical compounds:

Chemical Compound InChI InChI-Key
Methanol 1S/CH4O/c1-2/h2H,1H3 OKKJLVBELUTLKV-UHFFFAOYSA-N
Ethanol 1/C2H6O/c1-2-3/h3H,2H2,1H LFQSCWFLJHTTHZ-UHFFFAOYSA-N
Acetone 1S/C3H6O/c1-3(2)4/h1-2H3 CSCPPACGZOOCGX-UHFFFAOYSA-N
Aspirin
1S/C9H8O4/c1-6(10)13-8-5-3-2-4-7(8)9(11)12/h2-5H,1H3,(H,11,12)
BSYNRYMUTXBXSQ-UHFFFAOYSA-N

The application and importance of InChIs in chemistry and related disciplines are still being explored. Read more here.

RInChI – Reaction InChI

The RInChI organizes  InChIs involved in chemical reactions in a unique representation providing one layer each for reactants, products, agents (catalysts, solvents, etc.), and the direction of the reaction. This makes the RInChI a precise, robust, structure-derived tag for chemical reactions.

InChI at Springer Nature

InfoChem, a subsidiary of Springer Nature, which focuses mainly on storage and retrieval of structure and reaction information, has been involved with RInChI since its initial session in 2008. The first version of RInChI was finalized in March 2017 and is now available for the public.

Springer Nature is a member of the InChI Trust (a not-for-profit that works on development of the standard in collaboration with IUPAC) plans to use this standard for additional information and metadata in its chemistry journals, books and databases.  InChI keys for Springer Nature chemical content will be available in public, via open search portals such as PubChem or linked open data platforms such as SciGraph, thereby opening up data for the wider research community.

The RInChI group will present its experiences with RInChIs and RInChI-keys for large datasets (InfoChem SPRESI) along  with other RInChI use cases to the public in the workshop “Status and Future of the IUPAC InChI” to be held at the NIH in Bethesda (Washington DC) on 16th to 18th of August 2017.

How do you think InChI will help you in your work?  

What does it take to get your journal article from submission to publication? How does your book go from a manuscript to a title available at your university library? When your journal partners with Springer Nature for distribution, what steps are taking place to ensure all goes smoothly? We’re answering these questions and more in our new series “Behind the Scenes at Springer Nature.” Learn about the work being done across the company by our dedicated employees from around the world. Today we’re chatting with Divya Laul from our Springer marketing team.

What is your position at Springer?

I work as a Marketing Manager for the Springer Research Group at Springer Nature.

What are the main duties of your job?

My main responsibility is to help my Editorial team with acquisition of content for the  Springer Mathematics portfolio. So to reach out to potential and existing authors and researchers to publish with us – either a book, chapter or journal article. I do this by marketing our available content to the scientific community, as well as make available details on our publishing services to them.

I use various forms of digital marketing like social media marketing, e-mailers and mobile marketing to reach our audience. Organizing and participating in conferences and sponsorships are also a large part of my marketing strategy.

What tools/programs do you utilize in your role?

I look after our social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter, so I use both these platforms quite extensively to reach out within the Mathematics community. We use various agencies to send out digital content – like Teradata, now Mapp and ISI, now Clarivate for e-mail, Hootsuite for social media), and I rely on intelligent data from websites likes Authormapper, Web of Science and Journal Citation Reports to help structure my campaigns. In addition, we have internal systems like JFlow, BFlow, CMA and Coremedia that publish content to different places on our website.

What project(s) have you most enjoyed working on?

I thoroughly enjoy working on our social media accounts and creating interesting content for our audience to engage with us.

What challenges do you face in your position?
An interesting challenge that I face in my work is to make sure my marketing tactics are ever fresh and continue to reach my audience as expected. During my marketing activities, I have to make sure not to over reach by audience as well as reach out to them with relevant and fresh content. So I am always innovating fresh ideas and campaigns to reach out to the community.

We asked Sue Duncan, Technical Editorial Advisor for Hydrogeology Journal, the official journal of the International Association of Hydrogeologists (IAH), what it’s like to work with Springer at the partner level. 

Tell us about IAH. What are your mission and values?

IAH was founded in 1956 and celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2016. Our mission is to further the understanding, wise use and protection of groundwater resources, primarily to ensure aquifer and ecological sustainability and thus long-term access to safe drinking water. Now with around 4,100 members in over 130 countries, our society has emerged as the leading organisation specialising in groundwater worldwide. Groundwater protection is a serious matter and we endeavour to raise awareness with national and international agencies within a charity framework. We operate science-based ‘commissions’ and ‘networks’ with a global Council and a Secretariat based in the UK.

We run international conferences, at which members and other groundwater-related professionals come together to further our aims. Our members work in a wide variety of organisations, including academia, commercial companies and groups that make national and international policy. Our membership ranges from those with long-experience through to an early-careers network, whose enthusiasm and vision will shape the future of our association. And we provide a mentoring scheme designed to facilitate practical training, career development and the gift of sound advice. The result is the ‘IAH family,’ which promotes not only the sustainable management of groundwater but also provides a support network for all who work in this area.

How long has IAH partnered with Springer Nature? What made you choose us as your journal publisher?

Hydrogeology Journal (HJ) was launched in 1992 (initially as Applied Hydrogeology) as a major component in IAH’s scientific and educational priorities, published by Heise Verlag.  As the journal took off, IAH sought a partner that was more closely integrated within the geosciences community, to increase HJ’s exposure and reputation. Thus, in 1997, HJ’s publication was taken over by Springer, which means our partnership is now 20 years old.

HJ has grown to eight issues per year and celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. Its Impact Factor has risen steadily over the years and, although this is not necessarily the measure by which IAH measures success, the growth in the journal has been very pleasing indeed.

What makes Springer Nature a good fit for IAH?

IAH members and HJ readers and authors are often the same people. They range from the technology-enabled scientists of first-world countries to field operatives in challenging environments (often with little internet access), and from young PhD students in Mongolia to the well-seasoned professionals who seek to drive change and promote our mission by representing IAH at international fora such as the World Water Council, UNESCO and UN-Water. Thus, rapid evolution in one component of the organisation must be compatible with the needs of another. For the journal, IAH has managed this balance hand-in-hand with Springer Nature, who have guided us carefully through the ever-changing advances made by the publishing industry. But support is evident for our society as a whole, not just the journal.

As one example, the titles and abstracts of HJ articles can be published in up to 43 different languages. As another example, IAH members can receive HJ in either e-only format or as a physical copy posted direct from the printer. The flexibility offered by Springer Nature has been key to the success of our continuing society-publisher relationship.

Which of our services do you utilize? Which have been especially supportive for your members?

Good quality editing and production of the journal articles are, of course, our priority. Appropriate advertising is also appreciated. Accessibility of HJ articles to institutes and libraries in economically viable packages are all essential for authors and readers. These reflect our reputation and credibility in the global scientific community.

Perhaps the most beneficial service otherwise is Open Choice, as IAH members receive a discount on the fee for open-access publishing. Authors from developing countries usually choose to publish via the subscription route, for which there are no fees for HJ. Everybody, regardless of financial status, benefits from a good publishing experience, as well as imaginative promotional strategies, regular blogs and advice, and face-to-face contact with Springer Nature at conferences.

What Springer Nature platforms or programs have been most beneficial for your society?

SpringerLink is well organised, accurate and relevant. So apart from some supplementary information on the IAH website, our own members’ email alerts and our own HJ web page link people straight to SpringerLink for all HJ matters. It saves our administrators enormous effort.

The HJ editorial team is intrigued by Altmetric and we are watching its capabilities develop, especially with respect to registration of articles that contribute to environmental policy and guidance.

Any specific examples of campaigns or experiences over the years that have stood out?

The annual editorial meeting between the HJ/IAH team and our Springer Nature editors, in Heidelberg, has been of great benefit, and there have been plenty of those over the years!

Free-access periods for the special issues and topical collections have been particularly well received by HJ authors and readers. We anticipate considerable interest in this year’s special issue Hydrogeology and Human Health. These issues and collections are like your own children until they are released into the world, and it is good to know that they are safely managed by such a large and stable organisation.

Perhaps the most striking campaign has been “Change the World, One Article at a Time.” Although only one article from each Springer Nature journal is involved, the concept solidifies a lot of what IAH is about. So, in this respect, we really are all on the same page.

Learn more about our society and partnership benefits.

By: John Cody

For those wondering what the future of academic publishing might look like, the Springer Handbook of Robotics might point the way. The team behind it took a different approach from standard handbooks. The innovation, collaboration, and marketing that went into it has undoubtedly contributed to its success. The strength of the publication is reflected in the diversity of its audience that ranges from roboticists to ethicists exploring the future of robotics’ impact on humanity, to members of the European Commission looking to understand developments in the robotics community.

Bruno Siciliano and Oussama Khatib, co-editors, and Torsten Kroeger, multimedia lead and contributing author to the handbook, sat down to discuss how they brought it together. It is their hope that their experience can help more authors make their own books or journal articles more accessible.

Collaborate Across Disciplines

For a massive book totaling 2,300 pages and featuring 80 chapters from the top robotics researchers in the world, it is clear that the Second Edition of the Springer Handbook of Robotics stands out in terms of the amount of researchers involved and the sheer amount of information it contains. However, the team behind the handbook realized that their book could reach beyond core robotics disciplines.

“The special thing about robotics is the fact that it contains so many sub-disciplines,” Khatib said. “It is very broad, which means it brings people together from fields as diverse as mechanical engineering, biology, medicine, sociology, electrical engineering, and many other intersections.”

Gathering all of these diverse disciplines in one place was not easy but was essential to the success of the Handbook.

Siciliano said that one of the elements that separates their project is that, “nearly all the big names in robotics are there, and the book really represents a community of thought. Many chapters go across disciplines all the way to the boundaries of robotics.”

Siciliano and Khatib believe that the greatest advances in robotics are coming at the crossroads of disciplines, which is why they knew their book couldn’t just feature experts in core robotics subjects. The two co-editors’ approach benefits others working in scientific publishing. That’s why it’s important for researchers and academics to explore new ideas outside of their field that might push their own research area forward.

Although the handbook represented a massive collaborative effort across disciplines, it was essential for Siciliano and Khatib that their project was more than just a series of independent chapters representing disparate ideas.

“We were not just asking contributors to write something and hit ‘send’ followed by us just putting it all together into a volume,” Khatib said. “We really tried to digest what is essential and critical in the different areas of robotics, and try to bring it to the robotics community in a way that would be useful to both newcomers and experts in a given field. That means at each stage of our book, whether it is design, planning or control, there is an overarching narrative that draws the reader deeper into where robotics is and where it is going.”

Encourage Teams to Step Outside of Their Comfort Zone

Siciliano and Khatib tried doing collaboration differently. Instead of letting authors pick their own collaborators, they often teamed up authors who had never worked together before to complete key chapters of the book.

Siciliano says that usually when a professor or researcher decides to produce a paper or piece of content, they pair up with colleagues they have a good working relationship with. While this approach can produce less conflict, it can also stifle the free flow of new ideas that were essential to the handbook’s success.

Look Beyond the Written Word

One of the most innovative elements of the Springer Handbook of Robotics is the inclusion of multimedia content to leverage the valuable written content of the book. This Multimedia Extension allows readers to interact with content on a new level. The book not only features a huge library of video content, but also uses promotional video content to engage with their audience.

One video features what Siciliano describes as the “latest and coolest developments in robotics in the last 15 to 16 years.” Their 10 minute video consists of hundreds of hours of work, and required collaboration between Siciliano, Khatib, and Kroeger.

What is perhaps their most ambitious project was the creation of the Springer Handbook of Robotics web portal to host the Multimedia Extension of the book. The portal serves as a quick one-stop shop where contributors can easily upload videos that corresponded to specific chapters in the handbook.

Over time, they were able to collect over 700 videos for the book, which means that most of the chapters have supplementary video content. In order to ensure quality, they implemented a peer review system to ensure that the videos were appropriate with meaningful content that supports the book’s content.

Kroeger added useful features to the web portal, allowing contributors to upload descriptions, metadata, and videos, and then link those videos to specific chapters of the book. All videos and descriptions are available publicly under the least restrictive Creative Commons license, allowing anyone to reuse the videos for educational or commercial purposes.

“For robotics specifically as an applied science, it is very beneficial for readers to see videos that are then related to some theoretical foundation to really convey how things work,” said Kroeger, who worked on the web portal project while working at Google and X, both of which also partially funded the project. “Some videos are relevant from a scientific perspective, others are relevant from an educational perspective, and others from a historical perspective, and it is a very easy way for readers to comprehend the content on a higher level than simply reading what is in the text.”

In addition to the chapter videos, video tutorials were created by Springer for each of the seven parts based on a script prepared by the Part Editors. The Part Editors also outlined what was needed to produce the right kind of video sequences to fit the content of each chapter.

“For those who are a part of the robotics community, these are wonderful tutorials that benefit people, especially newcomers to robotics and researchers from other fields outside robotics,” said Siciliano. “The book helps move beyond a narrow field and show the greater research community the potential of robotics and how it relates to their own technical areas. The tutorials are backed by 11,000 bibliographic references, which gives you an idea of the depth of the research. We like to think of it as an entry point into the beauty of robotics.”

The Springer Handbook of Robotics App

In the course of the project, when it was clear that the videos might become a real success and support the Handbook tremendously, they decided to develop a corresponding app for smartphone and tablets. With the app (available for iOS and Android), readers use the camera on their phone or tablet, hold it to a page containing a special icon, and produce an augmented reality on the screen of their device. This allows readers to watch videos as they read along with the book.

“I can image that specifically the app may be highly relevant for journals and other books in the future,” said Kroeger. “The main idea is to provide illustrative content to readers in a very accessible way.”

As publishing explores new interactive technologies, apps like the one developed by Kroeger may find their way into new Springer products in the future, enabling authors to better connect with their audience to share knowledge.

Download the handbook apps here: http://handbookofrobotics.org/app

Watch video here: http://handbookofrobotics.org/view-chapter/0/videodetails/843

Use Social Media to Connect With Your Audience

Social media is now considered a key element of promotion for any book. The editorial and publishing teams created a social media campaign for the Handbook, which included the hashtag #handbooksofrobotics. Following the hashtag gave the team a centralized social media stream that everyone could follow for the latest updates on the book. Using the hashtag became a popular way for fans and contributors to share photos of the book and show off their own robot creations.

Siciliano realized the potential of harnessing the authors’ networks through social media and their own academic and research circles. The team successfully leveraged the over 220 contributing authors.

“I asked every author to send me a photo with their robot and the Handbook,” Siciliano said. “I also asked them to share those photos on their own social media profiles, whether it was Facebook or Twitter. The response was fantastic. Even friends of my own kids were just coming across these photos naturally and connected them back to their friend’s father, which demonstrates how incredible social media can be for getting the word out.”

They put together a video collating all of those photos and promoted it on social media to help demonstrate how strongly the community supported the book. The video features authors and fans with the handbook in classrooms and alongside their robot creations.

Youtube and Vimeo also play a vital role in reaching a larger audience. The Springer Handbook of Robotics team is highly active producing interviews, TED talks, tutorials and promotional content for their work and in turn, have shared this content widely on video platforms outside of their portal. Siciliano’s talk at TEDx is the type of activity that not only helps raise awareness for his robotics research but also builds excitement about the handbook. He also attends Springer Nature events, providing keynote speeches and interviews, which enables people in the scientific publishing industry better understand and relate to the work Siciliano and his colleagues are producing.

The Importance of Personal Contact

In the digital age, it’s possible to produce a book with multiple collaborators who never actually see each other in-person. However, Siciliano and Khatib credit much of the success of the project to two handbook workshops that were organized before the book was published.

“The workshops were not only key for creating and building the individual chapters, but also to help ensure those chapters represent a coherent story within the whole context of the Handbook,” Khatib said.

The workshops featured technical discussions on robotics, explored what should and should not be in the book, and how to ensure continuity and harmony between the various chapters they had planned. The success of the workshops underline the benefits of meeting collaborators in-person. It not only helps provide an environment conducive to fruitful discussion, but can also jumpstart a project that is having trouble realizing its full potential.

The Springer Handbook of Robotics is just one of many groundbreaking titles published by Springer. For more information on publishing a book, visit our book author page.

 

By: Jessica Monaghan

Meeting the open access requirements of research funders and institutions can prove a real challenge for authors. As the increase in records in the registry of OA repository mandates and policies (ROARMAP) demonstrates, the number of organisations with OA requirements is increasing every year, meaning more and more researchers are subject to such policies. OA policies can also vary widely in their requirements, leaving authors unsure or unaware of the steps required to achieve compliance. In a 2016 survey of Springer Nature authors who had published via the gold open access route, we found that 40% of authors were unable to identify any of their main research funder’s open access policy requirements, and only 15% correctly identified all requirements.

At Springer Nature, we’ve been exploring ways to help our authors comply with the OA requirements of their research funders and institutions, through raising awareness, adapting our policies, and carrying out checks to identify potential compliance issues.

 

Chart: Awareness of OA requirements of main research funder among Springer Nature OA authors.  Source: Survey of Springer Nature authors who had published open access, conducted in 2016 (n =1,111). Respondents were asked to select their main research funder’s OA requirements from a range of options, and responses were then matched to actual funder requirements to determine accuracy of authors’ understanding.
Incorrect identification includes all authors who incorrectly identified their funder’s green and gold OA requirements, or incorrectly identified one of these, and selected ‘I don’t know’ for the other.
Partial identification includes all authors who correctly or partially identified their funder’s green and/or gold OA requirements.

Raising awareness and reducing opportunities for non-compliance

Given the lack of awareness among many authors, we realised that providing information about funder and institutional OA requirements is a key step in improving compliance. For those authors looking for information and advice, we offer a free open access funding and policy support service, providing online guidance and support by email to authors across our Nature Research, Palgrave Macmillan, BioMed Central and Springer portfolios.

We’ve also been putting measures in place to minimise opportunities for non-compliance and to raise awareness, particularly in the area of open access licensing. A growing number of funders require authors to use the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence when publishing via the gold OA route, or where they’ve funded an APC. Like these funders, Springer Nature supports the CC BY licence as a means of enabling maximum rights for sharing and re-use of research publications, and this is reflected in our policies. BioMed Central and Springer Open journals already use CC BY as their sole licence, and we’re now moving many of our other open access titles to this policy to maximise CC BY uptake and ensure compliance with funder licensing requirements. Our two largest OA journals, Nature Communications and Scientific Reports moved to using CC BY-only as of January 2017, and other titles will be following suit shortly. Where journals continue to offer a range of licence options we’re alerting authors to the need to consider funder licensing requirements, with links to licence guidance being added to licensing forms and to journal submission systems and websites.

Springer Nature also deposits all articles published via the gold OA route into the PubMed Central (PMC) repository, provided that the journal is in subject scope and has been accepted for indexing in PMC. By doing so we’re helping our authors to meet the deposition requirements of many funders worldwide. We also participate in the Jisc Publications Router, sending UK-authored OA articles and metadata to be deposited in the repositories of participating institutions, to help support compliance with HEFCE’s OA requirements for the next Research Excellence Framework (REF). At the moment we’re sending UK authored content from our BioMed Central and Springer Open journals, and in future this will be available to all OA articles with UK authors.

Identifying and correcting OA compliance issues

In the small number of cases where articles fail to achieve compliance on publication, our new post-publication checks are designed to identify non-compliant licence choices and catch any failures in PMC deposition, making sure that articles can be made compliant as quickly as possible.

As a starting point for our checks, we went through the records of our OA publications from the past two years, identifying cases where the authors’ choice of OA licence would not allow them to meet the requirements of their research funder’s OA policy. We’ve been working with these authors to re-publish their papers under a CC BY licence, allowing them to fully meet their licence requirements of their funders. We’ve also taken measures to verify that all OA articles in indexed journals are available in PMC in their final published format, and are re-depositing articles where issues are identified. We will be working to carry out these post-publication checks on regular basis to so that we can be sure all our authors can achieve  compliance with every OA policy in all possible cases, even after publication.

The success of our efforts to date is reflected in the Wellcome Trust’s recent analysis of OA compliance among 2015/16 recipients of Charity Open Access Fund (COAF) APC funding. Average compliance was at 91% across all publishers, and Springer Nature reached 96% compliance (97% when cases of misreporting where no APC was paid to Springer Nature are removed). We’re proud of the progress made from previous years, though we recognise that there’s still room for improvement.

As one of the first signatories of the Wellcome Trust’s publisher requirements, which come into effect this April, Springer Nature is committed to improving levels of OA compliance, and not only for those authors supported by the Wellcome Trust. By taking these steps we hope to reduce the burden of OA policy compliance for authors, and to assist funders and institutions in ensuring that the research they have supported is made openly accessible in the manner that they intended.

Having recently been awarded a CBE for services to the Social Sciences in the 2017 New Year’s Honours list, we spoke to Professor Carol Smart about her career in academia, the impact of the social sciences, and why they’re so important as we appear to enter a post-truth period of ‘alternative facts’.

Can you give us an overview of your work in academia to date?

My first degree was in sociology but my master’s degree was in criminology and my PhD was in the field of socio-legal studies. This means that throughout my academic career I’ve been able to shift focus and emphasise different elements at different times.

While I’ve been able to contribute to sociological theorising, most of my work has had an applied element and at times I’ve worked closely with practitioners in the areas of law and social policy. My core sole authored publications include Women, Crime & Criminology (1976), The Ties that Bind (1984), Feminism and the Power of Law (1989), and Personal Life: New Directions in Sociological Thinking, (2007). However I have also jointly published with colleagues I have worked with on funded projects and the main monographs include The Changing Experience of Childhood: Families and Divorce, (2001), Same-Sex Marriages: New generations, new relationships (2013), and Relative Strangers: Family life, genes and donor conception (2014).

What is your most recent Palgrave book, Relative Strangers, about? What were your findings?

Relative Strangers is a book which explores what it means for couples and families to have a child born through donor conception (either sperm, egg or embryo donation). Petra Nordqvist and I sought to find out what it might mean for family relationships when a child was born who was not genetically related to ‘one side’ of a family or possibly to neither side.

Through in-depth interviews with couples (both lesbian and heterosexual) we explored how important genetic relatedness was for families, and also whether parents would opt to tell their children about their genetic origins. The study was carried out at a time when the consensus on whether or not to tell a child was changing in the direction of greater openness, and yet we found that this openness could be very hard for families. We also discovered that people’s understanding of how genes work and their very significance could be a great variance to contemporary scientific views.

How do you hope your research has had a real word impact?

‘Real world’ impact is a very loaded expression! For the sake of argument I shall take it to mean impact on ideas, policy and practice and my considered view is that influencing ideas, albeit that this is hard to evidence in the short term, is just as important as impact on a field of practice.

As to the first (ideas) my early work on criminology and on family law surely introduced a strong feminist perspective into mainstream thinking. I was able to demonstrate the paternalistic and patriarchal thinking that dominated those areas and subsequently many other scholars have taken those ideas forward. In more practical terms, my work on the experiences of children after their parents separated/divorced brought children’s voices into focus and policy has increasingly tried to be attentive to children’s needs. I am particularly pleased that this research was, in part, relied on to avoid policies of automatic 50:50 sharing of children on divorce.

As to more recent work I think we need to wait and see but I hope that my work on relatedness (Personal Life) will challenge the idea that we now live in a world of unconnected, selfish individuals.

What do you think your recognition in the New Year’s Honours list represents for the social sciences?

Before this year I paid scant attention to the Honours List but I think that this time only one other recipient of an honour (Tess Ridge at Bristol University) received one for services to social science. If this is typical it would seem that social science makes very little impact on those who make decisions about Honours and that is disappointing.

I would like to imagine that this recognition could boost the profile of the social sciences, but I am a realist and I think that fields such as sociology, social policy, socio-legal studies, criminology and other aligned social sciences might do better to work through more accessible forms of media (including social media) to draw wider attention to the value of their research and ideas. Having said that, I also think that universities and professional bodies need to be sure that they put forward the names of more social scientists for these honours.

In your view, why do the social sciences matter?

We appear to be entered into a period of ‘post-truth’, ‘alternative facts’ and widespread cynicism about experts of any sort. This is a major tragedy for anyone involved in higher education and research as it devalues, at a stroke, all the learning, studying and careful appraisal of evidence which goes on in the social sciences.

At the same time this frightening trend means that social science is even more important. The disciplines that comprise the social sciences all teach how to think critically, how to challenge received wisdoms, and above all provide a world view which has a scope beyond individual experience and biography.

Social science provides context (global, historical and contemporary) to events and, to paraphrase C. Wright Mills, it can save us from becoming the mere victims of the cycle of history and of events created by others. Sociology, my foundation discipline has, par excellence, the potential to produce robust, savvy, socially aware students and we need such people more than ever.

What do you think the future holds for those working in the social sciences?

As my previous answer would suggest, I think that things are going to be quite tough for social science over the next decade. We all know that funding for research is getting much harder to gain and the race to publish enough articles in so-called gold standard journals risks obliterating time to think and reflect carefully. As I, with several colleagues, wrote in the edited collection The Craft of Knowledge (2014) creating knowledge is not about the quick application of acquired techniques, but a craft that needs to be nurtured, shared and often revised in a context of joint endeavour rather than winner-takes-all competition.

We may also face a decade of further denigration of scientific work, as if the existing sneering of tabloid newspapers and the production of new social myths on social media was not enough. But this simply makes the need for a strong constituency of social scientists who will engage with these modern challenges all the more vital.

Read more pieces like this on Social Science Matters.

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