Case Studies

Researching the purpose and value of the monograph

For many years, the value and usefulness of academic monographs has been questioned, yet monographs continue to be submitted to publishers and there is evidence of growing usage of monograph materials online. More importantly, we see significant and meaningful research communicated in monograph form. We wanted to understand this so that we could better respond to the needs of our academic community.


This year, we collaborated with Cambridge University Press to research the value of the academic monograph and its place in the developing world of academia. Together, we conducted a global survey of nearly 5,000 academics, readers, and authors—from those at the start of their careers, to those well-established in their field.


Our survey focussed on Humanities and Social Sciences and showed that, alongside journal articles, the monograph remains vital to the scholarly ecosystem as an established vehicle for dissemination and debate of new research. Feedback also showed that the monograph has value in the research process itself, as an organizing principle.

‘Almost everything I know about my field has come from monographs.’

Survey respondent


Embedded as university presses are within the scholarly community, we were not shocked to hear that, while respondents felt that the monograph remains important, it must evolve to remain relevant to the way academics work in an increasingly digital world. It now falls to us, alongside our authors and readers, to facilitate this evolution and ensure that this important piece of the scholarly jigsaw continues to fit into the future of academia.


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Reflecting public concern about climate emergency

There is no question that ‘climate emergency’ is a term increasingly on the public’s minds. This was evident across our academic publishing this year, from the Word of the Year 2019, to our ecological research and climate-related titles being honoured across the board.


Research has revealed a demonstrable escalation in the language people are using to articulate information and ideas about the climate, and data collected in the Oxford Corpus shows a rapid rise in use of 'climate emergency' as a term. It became one of the most prominently used and debated terms of 2019, prompting our choice for Word of the Year. By September, its usage was more than 100 times as common as the previous year, and it surpassed all other types of emergency to become the most written about by a wide margin.


Elsewhere, Academic Book Week 2020 selected James Lovelock’s Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth for its capsule collection of recommended reads on the environment. Lovelock proposed the Gaia hypothesis back in 1979, and propounds the idea that living organisms interact with their surroundings on Earth to form a self-regulating macro system which helps to maintain the state of the planet—now a key debated theory. We published this title as part of the Oxford Landmark Science range of ‘must-read’ modern science books which have crystallised big ideas and been instrumental in the way we think.

In addition, Altmetric—which tracks a range of sources to measure the attention an article receives—ranked our BioScience article World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency in fourth place, saying ‘When more than 11,000 scientists say there’s a climate emergency, it’s time for the world to listen.’ The story made global headlines with the issue being featured by nearly 600 news outlets, and appeared in more than 8,300 tweets and 60 different blogs.


A 10,796 per cent increase in use of the term ‘climate emergency’ followed by extensive media coverage of its selection as the Word of the Year, continued debate of James Lovelock’s theory, and the BioScience article citation already falling in the top 5 per cent of research outputs scored by Altmetric, all point to a public eagerness to open up and participate in this meaningful and ongoing conversation.


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Oxford Handbooks Online turns ten

In 2019, we celebrated the tenth anniversary of Oxford Handbooks Online (OHO), looking back at the series’ growth over the last decade, as well as its commitment to online pre-print publications.  


Aimed at students and researchers, OHO are compendiums of the latest scholarly thinking written by experts in their respective fields. Launched in 2009, the original OHO list included just four titles but has since grown to more than 35,000 articles and 1,000 handbooks, with 38,000 authors spanning 17 subject areas.

Activities in the year included the creation of a new anniversary hub highlighting ten handbooks varying in subject area, each offering a free taster chapter. The hub received nearly 10,000 views partly driven by a social media campaign which achieved exceptionally good engagement.


The wider OHO website also performed well receiving more than five million visits this year—a 5 per cent increase on the prior year. The most viewed handbook was The Oxford Handbook of Political Science, which also happens to be first title ever published into the Oxford Handbook series.


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