Pressing for solidarity
Nursed by Professor Wieland Gevers, head of the department of medical biochemistry at the University of Cape Town, the forum has been incubating for nearly two years. Gevers, who is also chairperson of the Academy of Science of South Africa's committee for scholarly publishing, spoke at the launch about the need for the forum.
Professor Premesh Lalu of the Centre for Humanities Research at the University of the Western Cape explored the difficulties of publishing scholarly books locally.
Professor Robert Morrell of the University of Cape Town's school of education and Christina Pather of the university's research office spoke about the department of higher education and training's accredication policy, what submitting "publication outputs" to the National Research Foundation entails and the academic and financial value of the so-called points system.
That a national scholarly book publishers' forum be established was one recommendation the Academy of Science of South Africa made in its 2009 study, "The Production, Use and Evaluation of Scholarly Books" (see assaf.org.za for the full report).
Since then, local university and scholarly presses have rallied together and agreed on future plans. Raising the perceived value to authors of scholarly books in South Africa is one of the forum's aims. It also seeks to promote and improve the quality, quantity and impact of local scholarly book publishing and develop a new generation of excellent publishing scholars.
Sandy Shepherd is the publisher for UCT Press, one of the members of the newly launched National Scholarly Book Publishers' Forum
This article was published in the Mail and Guardian