Small-scale but efficient SoPhi publishing has followed its own route through the many transitions of science publishing since the mid-1990s. SoPhi operates in the University of Jyväskylä and publishes a wide range of literature connected to social debate.
– The educational dimension is highly significant in this work, sums Senior Lecturer in Philosophy, Docent Olli-Pekka Moisio the leading principle of SoPhi. By this, he refers to the dissemination of scientific knowledge for free and making it available to everybody interested as easily as possible. – In fact, the same principle is essential in JYU’s strategy as well, points out Moisio, who is also a member of the University Board.
Moisio is now the chief editor of SoPhi. – I started at the turn of the millennium as an editorial secretary and I’m still on that path, he says. The work in publishing increased his interest toward research and led him to the career of academic research and teaching.
Societal impact through open-access publishing is prominent also in the views of the editorial board. Besides Moisio, the other members of the editorial board are Senior Lecturer Hannele Harjunen and Professors Tapio Litmanen and Mika Ojakangas. The name SoPhi refers to the disciplines of Social Sciences and Philosophy.
SoPhi arose originally from the need to get Social Science research published quickly and with a lighter organisation than those of the big Finnish publishers.
Later, in the winds of the outsourcing trend, SoPhi ended up in Kopijyvä’s ownership and, through corporate acquisition, further to the Minerva publishing company in the beginning of the millennium.
About a decade ago, Minerva redirected its publishing policy. Consequently, SoPhi had no longer a role there, and it returned to the auspices of the Faculty of Social Sciences. Then the people involved in the publishing activities had to consider how this work could be continued with leanest possible organisation and cost structure.
– We decided to switch completely over to digital open-access publishing in SoPhi. The decision has proved successful. Our publications go still through the ordinary referee round and the series has a peer-review certificate granted by the Federation of Finnish Learned Societies. We publish annually from two to five editions. Already three editions are forthcoming this spring.
Despite the societal emphasis, SoPhi publications are free from any strict faculty-based or disciplinary categorisation. For instance, eligible natural science publications might include ones dealing with environmental themes bearing significance to topical social debate. In line with its original idea, SoPhi is still today an agile player in the field of publishing. At best, the books come out timely, just when relevant debate is underway.
Cost-effective, or actually free
SoPhi operates virtually without any funding. Authors are not requested for any entry financing, and there is no separately hired personnel. The operation is based on the notion that authors and editors of edited works play a key role in the production of books. They edit and finalise their texts themselves, obtain possible translations and illustrations, and preferably take care of layout as well.
– If, for example, they cannot find anybody else to make the layout, I make it alongside with my other job. Since I have done those things so long already, it goes relatively quickly, Moisio assures. – A couple of books a year is a suitable number; more would take too much time.
SoPhi publications can be downloaded freely, bringing research knowledge thus available to students at different schools, for instance, as well as to other audience interested in science.
– In consequence of the ongoing structural changes in the field of science publishing, the role of players like SoPhi and the University Library will gain emphasis. Finnish academic publishers have to increasingly exclude strictly scientific publications from their publishing plans in lack of any extensive market for these, Moisio considers. As an example, he mentions edited compilations produced as an outcome of a scientific conference, for instance.
Many SoPhi books are very popular and most of them have very high download statistics. Also such works that were published originally in the 1990s and the physical copies of which have been sold out several times since then, interest still people and are available in digital versions. One of the most popular SoPhi books is Muuttuvat hyvinvointivaltiot: eurooppalaiset hyvinvointivaltiot reformoitavina [Changing welfare states: European welfare states under reform], written by Raija Julkunen. It was published in 2017 and has been downloaded more than 8800 times. This book also exemplifies how it is sometimes difficult even for a high-quality scientific work to find a proper place on the lists of big publishers. The Federation of Finnish Learned Societies selected Julkunen’s book as a nominee for the Science Book of the Year Award in 2018, and it received an Honorary Recognition.
A joint scientific JYU- publisher?
Moisio suggests an idea for consideration; whether universities could reclaim responsibility for science publishing.
– Now we are paying international corporations for publishing, using funds we receive mainly from public sources. Hence, we lose both money and time.
International giants of the publishing field sell the products of our work back to us with great prices. This transfer of money is further enhanced by the principles of national financial allocation. Moreover, often the production times of publications are incredibly long, which makes it impossible to address topical phenomena.
– If, for example, we joined forces at the level of the whole University of Jyväskylä, we would be capable for nationally and also internationally remarkable publishing. We would be carrying out our educational mission and exerting our societal influence both in Finland and on a global scale, without compromising our scientific contribution, Moisio envisions.
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