Alison Mudditt, director of the University of California Press, said last year that American university presses are going to face two challenges: Firstly, they will have to define the best path to get productively involved in open access publishing; secondly, they will have to rethink themselves and reorganize their structure internally, at their host university, to prove their institutional value with concrete facts. These challenges arise from a context in which the forms and purposes of academic publishing have been changing. Now, good contents are not enough; information technologies demand new technical skills, better infrastructure and innovative strategies to publish and reach readers. The idea of success for a university press project becomes increasingly complex, in the midst of a scholarly production that does not stop growing and has effects on institutional reputation.
In 2014, after considering these challenges, the Universidad Cooperativa de Colombia created a new press. The attributes of this new project coincide with many of those emphasized by Alison in her perspective of American university presses: open access; a flexible, adaptive structure, accompanied by a refined mission of the Press so that its contributions to the University are more relevant; selection of some thematic lines and foci that allows our catalog to stand out from others and be well weighted over time by disciplines; and finally, perhaps the most important attribute: cooperation. Without partnerships, without publishing cooperation among projects, libraries and their universities, it is very difficult to get off the ground and keep up.
What is the evidence of these attributes in our University Press? We publish all our catalog of works in both open access and Public Knowledge Project platforms; we created a policy for grey literature following recommendations of the Pisa Declaration and, thus, we have provided a space to publish research and teaching support texts that have no place in usual publication formats and can be used by students, while improving the quality and quantity of contents needed by the University’s programs; we publish research, teaching, and dissemination books within collections by field of study and we have been launching theme collections of interest to various disciplines (globalization, humor, Orinoquia and Amazonia). As for cooperation, our Press is not endogamous; books are being published in national and international co-authorship and we have a journal (Colombia Forense) co-edited with a public institution and a research book collection in alliance with two other universities.
So, this is the path we have followed in the last three years. The impact of published contents has been one of our concerns since the beginning: how to promote it, how to monitor it, how to increase it. And as we know, impact, with its ups and downs, is one of the ways to measure the success of an academic publishing project that has prevailed in the last years. Here is where one of our most recent achievements fits in, which we can add to our consolidation as a university press: The inclusion of our research books in the Book Citation Index (BKCI) in Web of Science (WoS). The BKCI is a selective book index that is part of the prestigious WoS Core Collection. Each book entering the BKCI becomes part of the most representative and valuable canon of scholarly literature for a discipline. In the case of social sciences and the humanities —areas where the book format is frequently used to disseminate research results—, it may be more important for visibility issues. Researchers from various disciplines and countries with access to the BKCI will now be able to find all of our research books included therein. In this way, we will reach more readers and our contents will surely encourage other researchers or help support research in other contexts. Likewise, the fact that a Latin American university press that publishes most of its books in Spanish is included in the BKCI is noteworthy because such index contains mostly literature in English. In addition, the presence of Latin American university presses in this index can still be counted on the fingers of one hand and focuses on a few of the most prestigious universities in the region (e.g., Sao Paulo, UNAM, Universidad de Chile, among others).
The challenges we are aware of and anticipated, the attributes we adopted and the goals we are achieving are the clues and pieces of a big project we are carrying out and putting together; yet we still have a lot to read, edit and publish.