Blogs

  • Interviews With 2023 PROSE Judges

    As we approach the end of the 2023 PROSE Awards entry period, we have our final piece in our PROSE Judges Spotlight series, in which we ask veteran judge Daniel Mack for his thoughts on what makes for a winning PROSE entry.

    Daniel Mack, Associate Dean of Libraries for Collection Strategies and Services, University of Maryland in College Park

    Judge Daniel Mack is an Associate Dean of Libraries for Collection Strategies and Services at the University of Maryland in College Park, where he provides leadership in policy creation and implementation, strategic planning, program development, and assessment for library collections. He has advanced degrees in library science and ancient history and has taught college courses in ancient history, Roman archaeology, classical literature, and Latin grammar, all of which lend themselves to judging PROSE entries.

    Association of American Publishers: What do you look for in a submission?

    Daniel Mack: A successful PROSE submission is a work that sheds new light on a scholarly or professional topic while also exhibiting outstanding production values.  Whether the target audience consists of general readers or specialized researchers, a winning submission will employ clear writing, effective arguments, and appropriate ancillary matter to make its case.

     A successful submission will combine original scholarship with exceptional readability and excellence in production.

    AAP: How can libraries and scholarly publishers work together to highlight best in classical research?

    Daniel Mack: Libraries and scholarly publishers are natural partners to promote excellent research in the classics. Librarians work at the hub of interdisciplinarity, and classical research is a highly interdisciplinary field, combining the study of history, literature, philology, and material culture. 

    Because they support faculty, students, researchers, and general readers, libraries understand the varying needs of these audiences.  Librarians can work with publishers to promote excellent classical research that supports the multiple intersections of these disciplines and readers. 

    AAP: Do you have a favorite classical text?

    Daniel Mack: My personal favorite classical text is the Aeneid of Virgil (Publius Vergilius Maro, 70-19 BCE).  Published at the dawn of the Roman Empire in the late first century BCE, the Aeneid immediately became the national epic of Rome. Virgil’s great work is both sophisticated and elusive, and open to a variety of contradictory interpretations, and has been a major influence on Western culture for two millennia, inspiring writers, artists, and composers like Dante, Shakespeare, Purcell, and Voltaire. 

    Submissions for the 2023 PROSE Awards close next week, Friday, November 18th. Learn more about the PROSE Awards here.

  • Interviews with 2023 PROSE Judges

    In the second installment of the 2023 PROSE Spotlight series, judge Deborah Logan provides insight into not only the judging process, but also the importance of gender-balance in awards committees and scholarly editorial teams. 

    Deborah Logan, Publishing Director, Elsevier, Energy & Earth Journals' Program

    Judge Deborah Logan is Publishing Director for Elsevier’s Energy & Earth journals’ program which is the largest global publishing programs in the energy and earth sciences, and which includes many flagship titles publishing world-class content. Deborah’s passions lie in raising standards, championing excellence, and promoting greater diversity in science.

    Association of American Publishers: What do you look for in a PROSE submission?

    Deborah Logan: I want to see the author and publisher in perfect step with each other! A strong submission letter and endorsements can really help with this.

    From the author, I want to see a compelling reason for the work to have been created. Will you tell the reader something new? Will you tell it to them in a new way?

    From the publisher, I want to see the work presented well. Does the work look good? Does it read well? Is there a logical flow?

    AAP: Can you talk a little bit about the importance of gender-balance in awards committees?

    Deborah Logan: I think balance in general is important in all areas of life. We know that a diverse team leads to innovation and better-quality decision making, both of which are critical for awards assessment, but let’s balance this where we can so that everyone feels they belong. I’ve been the only woman on a committee before, and it can be tough to feel you can introduce new ways of looking at things or influence the outcome in any way.

    It’s particularly important to get different perspectives when you’re evaluating who gets an award. If you don’t have that diversity of profile, then will your candidates respect your decision? Will they even apply in the first place? Would the awards then have the value they have? I can tell you that all of the judges bring something different to the discussion and speak freely, and I know I’ve made better decisions as a result.

    I feel strongly that a gender-balanced committee means we take a holistic view when we on the PROSE panel assess the awards. I also hope we can open the doors to works that might not have been submitted previously. I joined the committee to make sure I provided a fresh angle. It’s still the case that in the field I evaluate there are more men than women as authors. Yet those women authors are out there. Please encourage your publisher to submit your work!

    AAP: Can you talk about the importance of gender-balanced editorial teams for scholarly works?

    Deborah Logan: As with awards, so with scholarly works. This is not just about doing the right thing or having teams that reflect the diversity of the scholarly world. Nor is it even that diverse, balanced teams can stimulate excellence and innovation. These things are true, but editorial teams have another role to play. This is where you find your role models. This is where you inspire the current and future generations of scholars to create their own scholarly works in whatever field of study they choose. Scholars care about the editorial teams on journals, and they make decisions based on what they see. For me, at least, I try to make sure there are no closed doors. There are only open ones and everyone belongs.

  • Interviews with 2023 PROSE Judges

    As submissions start to roll in for the 2023 PROSE Awards, our own Syreeta Swann, Chief Operating Officer here at the Association of American Publishers, asked veteran judge Peter Berkery for some insights into what makes a PROSE entry stand out. Peter is the Executive Director of the Association of University Presses (AUPresses). AUPresses is a partner for the PROSE Awards.

    Syreeta Swann, Chief Operating Officer, Association of American Publishers
    Peter Berkery, Executive Director, Association of University Presses

    Judge Peter Berkery brings a publisher’s point of view to the 2023 PROSE judges panel, having served as Executive Director of the Association of University Presses (AUPresses) since 2013. Berkery also has extensive experience in government affairs and association management, and has a BA in Classical Studies from Boston College, both an MA and a JD from The American University, and a Master of Laws in Taxation from George Washington University.

    Syreeta Swann: What do you look for in a submission?

    Peter Berkery: Two things, I think: (1) the work itself advances scholarship in its discipline - or even pioneers a whole new field of inquiry; and, (2) the submission materials reflect the publisher’s belief in the work.

    There’s nothing more disappointing to me as a judge than reading an entry form that’s simply a cut-and-paste of the jacket copy.

    Syreeta Swann: What makes University, Professional and Scholarly Publishers unique in the publishing world?

    Peter Berkery: AUPresses members share a commitment to editorial rigor, particularly as evidenced by thorough, thoughtfully-administered peer review. (The recently published 2nd edition of our Best Practices for Peer Review of Scholarly Books https://peerreview.up.hcommons.org/  is only the latest demonstration of our community's high standards.)

    This commitment bears ample fruit in the eyes of PROSE Awards judges as well: last year alone, university press publications won 30 of the 39 categories and received 4 of the top 5 prizes, including the ultimate PROSE Award honor, the R.R. Hawkins Award. 

    Syreeta Swann: Can a book can be judged by its cover?

    Peter Berkery: Always!!! Regardless of format or medium, production values matter, and are an important part of the overall value added by scholarly publishers. They definitely get mentioned when judges deliberate.

    We thank Peter for taking the time to shed some light on the PROSE judging process and look forward to seeing the entries submitted for 2023! Over the next few weeks, look to our website to see insight from other 2023 PROSE Awards judges.

    And don’t forget: submissions for the 2023 PROSE Awards will be accepted till Friday, November 19th. Learn more about the PROSE Awards here.

  • As college students head back to school this fall, a highlight continues to be the quality and affordability of the course materials that will help them learn and succeed. Trends that have only accelerated with the digital transition in education since the pandemic.

    For the past ten years, publishers have forged ahead with a twin focus on quality and affordability, leading to a significant decrease in student spending on course materials. In addition, publishers have been able to provide students with innovative new products that increase accessibility, and provide them with a broad spectrum of course material options to choose from.

    One of those innovations has been the course delivery model Inclusive Access, which provides students with access to course materials on the first day of class, at the guaranteed lowest market rate. The model continues to gain popularity, with more than 1,500 campuses (and growing). According to new 2022 research from Student Watch, 39 percent of students have acquired materials through Inclusive Access models, up from 15 percent in 2019.

    What’s more, the reduced costs are also folded into tuition, reducing the need for separate materials at the beginning of the semester. Federal regulations permit students to pay for Inclusive Access materials through loans or grants under Title IV of the Higher Education Act and require them to be available at the lowest cost available on the market.

    Kelly L. Denson is Vice President of Education Policy and Programs at the Association of American Publishers and a former teacher.

    Research has also shown that Inclusive Access often leads to major increases in student success for diverse student groups.

    Researcher Michael Moore from the University of New Hampshire found that Black students, female students, and students over the age of 25 had the “largest increase in success rates” when comparing student success before and after using Inclusive Access. Inclusive Access models may have a massive impact on increasing equity in the learning environment.

    And faculty appreciate that students can have their materials on the first day of class, giving them more time to start their assignments and increase their chances of successfully completing the course. Inclusive Access also provides flexibility and can be implemented on a department level, on a course-by-course basis, or even by course section.

    More research continues to be done on this innovative course material delivery model. Education publishers continue to prioritize affordability, offering high-quality content and course materials in a variety of delivery models that have been proven to dramatically reduce the cost to students – including Inclusive Access, as well as digital, rentals, or digital subscription models, and individual learning apps.

  • Since 1976, the AAP has sponsored the PROSE Award for Excellence in Physical Sciences & Mathematics. Every year, upwards of 20 judges spend our precious hours reading about the mineralogy of meteorites, or the ecosystems of California, or solutions to boundary-value problems in diffusion science (to name but a few of the recent winning topics). You may ask, why does AAP offer this prestigious award for Physical Sciences & Mathematics? To my mind, the answer is simple. The world needs more great science books and great science books deserve to be celebrated. You may not immediately agree with that statement, but hear me out.

    First, a small philosophical digression.

    Ever since Heraclitus, humanity’s deep thinkers have doubted the capacity of the human mind to comprehend the mysteries of the cosmos. In the modern era, proponents of a position known as mysterianism have followed this line of argument, suggesting that the solutions to certain “hard problems” (most notably, how consciousness somehow arises from physical processes in the brain) lie beyond the cognitive reach of Homo sapiens. After all, they say, everything we are, biologically speaking, is the result of a random process of evolution. Unless our distant ancestors were assisted in spreading their genes by a deep knowledge of the workings of the universe, why should we expect that evolution would have endowed our brains with such esoteric capabilities?

    There are others who find this to be an overly pessimistic view. Having identified a mystery, are we not already on the path to solving it? The philosopher Daniel Dennett puts it this way: “As soon as you frame a question that you claim we will never be able to answer, you set in motion the very process that might well prove you wrong: you raise a topic of investigation.” Speaking for myself, a mere mortal with a limited grasp of these questions, I confess to (a) a headache brought on by thinking too hard and (b) a preference for the latter, more optimistic, approach.

    What has all this got to do with books? Well, if hard problems are hard to think about, they are even harder to write about. And if you can’t write about them in a convincing way, your ideas are unlikely to gain much traction. Compelling writing is no less important in the scientific realm than it is in works of literature, say, or young adult fiction. In the sciences, I would argue, books (or, to use a more scholarly descriptor, monographs) provide the ideal setting for the careful laying out of a complex argument. Journal articles, with all their constraints and conventions and need for speed, are simply not suited to this purpose; they serve a rather different function in the research ecosystem.

    As an exemplar of the power of the scientific monograph, I direct your attention to the winner of the 2021 PROSE Award for Excellence in Physical Sciences & Mathematics: David Merritt’s A Philosophical Approach to MOND: Assessing the Milgromian Research Program in Cosmology, published by Cambridge University Press. If this seems a challenging topic, see above, and I don’t propose to go into too much detail here. Just bear with me through the next paragraph.

    Sean Pidgeon, is a 2022 PROSE Award Judge, editor of the 2009 PROSE Awards R.R. Hawkins Award Winner, and Senior Editor at Association of Computing Machinery

    In brief, MOND refers to Modified Newtonian Dynamics, a theory advanced by the physicist Mordehai Milgrom as an alternative explanation for an apparent anomaly in the dynamics of galaxies. The speed at which stars or gas clouds orbit at a certain distance from the galactic center can be predicted by applying Newton’s laws of gravity and motion, given the observed distribution of mass in the galaxy. Astrophysical measurements have shown that this holds true near the centers of most large galaxies, but perplexing deviations begin to appear farther out in the galactic disk: the orbital speed is found to be systematically larger than that predicted by Newton’s laws. In the “standard model” of cosmology, this observation is explained by assuming that galaxies are embedded in haloes of “dark matter,” a mysterious substance that has never been directly observed. By contrast, the MOND theory posits the radical idea that Newton's laws are themselves modified in regions of very low mass density, such as the outer reaches of galaxies.

    Is MOND an accurate description of what’s really going on, or should we stick with invisible dark matter? I have no idea, and Merritt does not claim to have answered that question definitively. What he does demonstrate, though, is the value of a carefully reasoned long-form scientific argument. Constructed with exquisite care over 270 pages and beautifully written for its intended audience, his book builds its argument with devastating logic. A glance at the reviews shows that even the skeptics are impressed with the way he develops his thesis. As a physics graduate myself (though in ancient times), I confess that I found the book entirely gripping, despite having to skim over some of the really complicated stuff. In some distant foggy recess of my brain, I am still pondering the meaning of life, the universe, and everything, and wondering whether modified Newtonian dynamics might have a part to play in that.

    If Sir Isaac Newton is furrowing his brow, that’s got to be a good thing: it’s how the hard problems get solved. And so, in closing, here’s my heartfelt plea to the deep thinkers of the world: write more books like this, please. And to my fellow science publishers: publish more books like this, please, and don’t forget to submit them for the PROSE Awards. If we work together, maybe we can keep those pessimistic mysterians in their place.