Making a difference


from Press News, posted 11/18/2011 - 08:01

All of will be familiar with requests from above for this report or that plan, next year’s budget or last year’s results, often to be delivered at short notice. It was thus refreshing recently to be asked to supply one or more success stories for the Press, things that showed how the work that we do actually makes a difference.

At the risk of sounding boastful, here is a few of those stories.

Building careers

In line with the institute’s task to support Asian studies in the Nordic region, NIAS Press has worked to publish the work of (especially young) Nordic scholars and bring this to the attention of the international scholarly community. Not surprisingly, perhaps, the careers of many Nordic scholars now in positions of influence (at home and increasingly abroad) were founded or have been boosted by being published by NIAS.

Nurturing new authors

Indeed, our focus on nurturing new authors - not always an easy matter - has spawned a sideline activity: running seminars for PhD students and post-docs on getting published. Time and again, we are thanked by newly published authors (many of them not published by NIAS) for the insights and hard information we offered them at a critical moment.

Going the extra distance for all authors

A continual problem for Asian-studies authors is the unwillingness of publishers to work with non-Latin scripts (or indeed entertain the idea of footnotes). NIAS Press may not be a publishing giant but it is known for going the extra distance for its authors and building a sense of family and loyalty in the process. The other day when visiting Copenhagen, Professor Duncan McCargo of Leeds University (whose Mapping National Anxieties was recently published by NIAS Press) commented that NIAS was the only publisher he knew who not only offered footnotes but also Thai script in both the text and footnotes, not simply buried away in a glossary.

Building an international profile

A key consideration behind the launch of a full-time, professional publishing programme at NIAS in the early 1990s was to raise the international profile of the institute. This goal was soon realised but not without some ‘mistranslation’ in the process. Frequently, when travelling in Asia, NIAS staff get to visit far larger institutes (often with 100 or more researchers). Quite frequently, here the perception is that, with NIAS being so prominent on the Asian studies scene, it must be at least of an equivalent size.

Visible in many places

One nitty-gritty reason for the international reach of NIAS Press is its global network of distributors and agents promoting and selling our books. That - plus our policy of generally publishing low-cost paperback editions of our books - means that NIAS books are found not only on the shelves of (say) the Bodleian Library in Oxford and Menzies Library in Canberra but also in countless bookstores like Monument Books in Phnom Penh.

Daring to be innovative

Arguably, all scholarship should be innovative even if building on earlier work. Sadly, much that is published in all academic fields is of the ‘me too’ variety (often for commercial reasons). One thing that we are proud of at NIAS Press, however, is record of moving the scholarly discourse in new directions. Social perceptions of the environment, Asian values, the threat (or mirage) of maritime piracy and various awkward political issues are some of the things that spring to mind.

Offering alternative viewpoints

A significant number of books published by NIAS have been by authors associated with the international development work of Danida and Sida. This work tends to have a different approach to development than that pushed by the ‘Washington Consensus’ (IMF, World Bank, etc.). It has been interesting to receive feedback from various Asian diplomats that publication and a wide dissemination of this alternative approach is much appreciated in Asia.


 

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