INTERNATIONAL ECOTOURISM MONTHLY
Year 6 - Issue 69 - Mar 05
SAMI GROVER: "There was enough material out there to warrant a more specialist journal dedicated to Ecotourism"
Sami Grover is Commissioning Editor for Channel View Publications. He is responsible for researching and commissioning new titles for the "Aspects of Tourism" and "Tourism and Cultural Change" book series, for developing new journals and book series and for promoting existing book and journal publications. He is also the company's environmental officer and is currently looking at reducing Channel View's environmental footprint. Outside of the day job, Sami is a keen environmentalist with a particular interest in sustainable agriculture and community food projects.
Channel View Publications publishes books and journals on tourism and environmental studies. Channel View's journals include the Journal of Ecotourism, the Journal of Sustainable Tourism, Current Issues in Tourism, Journal of Tourism and Cultural Change, and the forthcoming Journal of Heritage Tourism. Recent book titles include "Tourism, Recreation and Climate Change" edited by C. Michael Hall and James Higham, and "Tourism, Globalization and Cultural Change" by Donald V.L. Macleod. Channel View offer free and reduced price subscriptions to libraries in developing countries and have recently launched a free online database of back issues up to and including 2003 volumes.
Many other publishers around the world surely envy you, but you got there first: publishing the Journal of Ecotourism! What opportunity did you see in Ecotourism, and in what way was this new journal to add to the acclaimed Journal of Sustainable Tourism which you also publish? Are you happy with the results so far?
We are extremely happy with the results so far. The Journal of Ecotourism (JOE) seems to be establishing itself as a popular and well respected specialist journal within its own niche, distinct from the broader remit of the Journal of Sustainable Tourism (JOST). Given that JOST had already been going nine years by the time JOE came in to existence, and was receiving a huge amount of submissions, Channel View were able to keep an eye on research going on in the field. It seemed fairly clear that there was enough material out there to warrant a more specialist journal dedicated to ecotourism. I wouldn't want to claim the credit for ourselves though. Much of the success of JOE rests with the initiative of the editor, David Fennell, and with the advice, support and encouragement we received from other academics. Looking now at the number and quality of the submissions, the level of subscriptions, and the feedback we have received, it would appear that we listened to the right people.
Beyond the J of Ecotourism, you publish many other interesting Tourism Journals, each one somewhat related but yet different from the other title. There must be a publishing risk in segmenting the presentation (and presenting the segmentation) of knowledge, particularly in new, untested academic niches, and sub niches in a field such as tourism, but surely rewards too. Do you primarily respond to an increasing supply of increasingly diversified academic research or rather increasing demand from increasingly diversified readers?
There is always a publishing risk related to a new journal. Library budgets are extremely tight nowadays, and in order for a university to subscribe to a new journal, they often have to drop another one. Given that new journals are an ongoing financial commitment, and are unlikely to bring in significant subscriptions in the first few years, they are obviously also a financial strain on the company budget. It serves nobody's interests to start a new journal unless there is a very real, demonstrable need for one. However, disciplines do obviously evolve and develop, with new niches or subject areas emerging from time to time. It is clearly vital that these areas are served by appropriate platforms for disseminating research. As to whether we respond to supply or demand, I think it is a combination of the two. Indeed the two are perhaps more closely linked than in many other industries, given that our authors and editors are ultimately also a large proportion of our readers. Sometimes we will notice or identify a particular niche from papers we see coming through our journals, or elsewhere in other publications or conferences, or sometimes we will be approached with a proposal for a potential journal. Either way we will then do an extensive amount of research and consultation to make sure that there is a real demand for such a project.
Universities have been up to now the main producers and guardians of scientific knowledge, and thus suppliers of content for scientific journals. Are there any signs of this oligopoly being gradually diluted, and would it be a positive or negative development, in terms of quality? If the oligopoly was diluted would it lead to more or less commercialism in the production and presentation of knowledge?
I think that tourism being a relatively new academic discipline has resulted in a more open atmosphere anyway - many tourism academics also work as consultants or have a background in the industry. Many others move on from academia into the industry. Whether this trend is increasing, it's difficult to say. We have seen a number of submissions coming from researchers outside the traditional university sphere in recent years, including NGOs and the private sector. There also seems to be less distinct boundaries between universities, private companies and other organisations - research collaborations and partnerships are commonplace. Whether this is a positive or negative development depends on how it is managed. If universities remain isolated from the concerns of the outside world, then their research is going to have little relevance or value, so increased communication could lead to some very real benefits in setting the research agenda for everyone's benefit. However, there are clearly risks involved also. The interests of specific groups within the tourism industry (or indeed NGOs) do not necessarily always equate with the interests of wider society, or even with other elements in the same industry. There is obviously then a very real risk that research agendas will get skewed and certain factors will not get a look in if any one interest group has too much influence. To give a specific example, I can't help feeling that the issue of climate change has not received the attention it deserves within the tourism community. It is true to say that society as a whole is still waking up to this threat, but I do sense a particular reluctance from some researchers to engage with this issue. I don't mean to suggest that this is a case of vested interest or out-and-out corruption. I think it's perhaps more accurate to say that many academics that have grown up with this emerging field hold tourism very dear, and in particular they see responsible sustainable/ecotourism as a force for good. This can lead to the kind of mentality that promotes responsible trekking in the Andes as an inherently positive environmental step, ignoring the fact that the participants may have flown half way round the world to participate - generating more pollution than they may do at home in a whole year. Undoubtedly there are also those in industry who would prefer this situation was not examined too closely. Aside from the wider moral aspects, it makes very little sense for the proponents of tourism themselves, given the havoc that climate change is likely to cause for the tourism industry in the medium and long term.
Thorny Issues: Copyright and author remuneration. What is your personal view on these matters. On principle, should an author be paid for his work, and be entitled to the copyright of his own work? And if so, how come the situation with many academic journals is totally the opposite: unpaid authors, publisher's or university copyright?
These are questions we often get asked, particularly when doing workshops with new or aspiring academics. It is not normally the case that the publisher retains copyright - the author normally retains copyright but grants us the exclusive right to publish and distribute the article. There are considerable expenses involved in the publishing process and no commercial publisher will invest time and money on publishing something if they can't be reasonably sure of recovering their investment. The author still retains the right to use the article in various ways as long as they do not jeopardize the commercial interests of the publisher. We do try to work with our authors to make sure everyone gets the best possible benefit from the publishing process. Regarding payment, this is another tricky issue. It is part of an academic researcher's job to write and disseminate research - the more they are published, generally, the more successful their career will be. You could therefore argue that they are paid for writing, but by the university rather than the publisher. This obviously raises a problem if we do want to attract research from outside the traditional academic community, and not one that I have an easy answer for. Ultimately, however, cash payments for authors, or for referees, would mean higher priced journals - something that libraries would not stand for at present.
A question many a student, and people in developing countries, would like to ask any publisher: Why are academic Journals so expensive?
Essentially because they are a highly specialised product with a limited readership and a complex and expensive production process. It would be unfair, for example, to compare the price of a popular glossy magazine with a readership in the tens of thousands with a specialist journal with a lengthy and expensive peer review process and subscriber numbers in the hundreds, as is the case with most tourism journals. That is not to say that we shouldn't be concerned about the price. There is no doubt that some academic journals are priced way above what they should be and prices of all journals do prove a barrier for access for many. This needs to be addressed. We already offer, for example, reduced rate individual subscriptions, and we allow libraries in some countries to access our journals free of charge, whilst others are permitted to subscribe at the individual rate. We have also just opened up all online issues up to and including 2003 volumes to open access via: www.channelviewpublications.net
What is your evaluation of the Open Source / Open Access movement and free book exchanges. A "revolution", product dumping, publicity stunt, unwanted threat or useful taster? And what about these aspiring self-publishers, the bloggers?
The Open Access movement is a very interesting development and it is something that prompted us to open up our back issues as discussed above. It will be very interesting to watch how open access develops. Whilst completely free dissemination of scientific research is obviously a desirable aim, the fact remains that there are always costs involved in publishing. Traditionally these have been met through the subscriptions model, with the publisher providing the service of processing and packaging information into a useable format. Open Access will simply move those costs elsewhere. The most common form of open access currently being looked at is one where the author, or their institution/ funding body, meets the cost of publication, with access to readers being free. This is probably a viable model for some subject areas, where funding is adequate, but some of the lower funded disciplines may lose out if there is a complete shift to open access. Contributors from developing countries may also be disadvantaged if they are unable to find funding to publish. Open Access proponents suggest that publication fees can be waved for those unable to afford it, in much the same way as subscription fees are waved by many publishers now for libraries in the developing world (this is sometimes called geographical open access). However, it is a much simpler, and cheaper, process to approve free access to subscriptions for libraries that would never have subscribed anyway, than it is to wave a publication fee which may be as high as several thousand pounds. This would mean that there would necessarily be a quota or limit on the number of non-paying authors that could be 'carried' by the rest of the community, whereas the number of institutions gaining free subscriptions would not need a limit, as long as these subscriptions do not take away from subscriptions that would otherwise have been paid for. To my mind this would raise very real questions about the inclusivity of the Open Access publishing process. In reality I think we will see a combination of approaches, depending on the subject area, that will be adopted by publishers to increase access whilst ensuring that the publication process remains viable and effective. Free book exchanges and the like are not something that has caused us much bother. We do find that text books do drop sales in the second or third year as second hand copies become available, but this has always been the case and is something that we have to contend with and factor in to our business. As for bloggers, on a personal note, I think they are great. I regularly use various blogging sites to research issues of both professional and personal interest. Often these will lead me on to sources of information published through more traditional routes. They are a very different medium used for very different purposes than academic books or peer reviewed journals and I think the two exist currently very happily side-by-side. The only risk is when self-published scientific research that aims to bypass the peer review process is treated by the press or the public in the same manner as peer-reviewed information. It has not been through the same rigorous processes and as such should be treated with caution.
What is your use of the Internet as a publisher, do you find it a useful tool, a noise or a threat even?
All of the above. We sell a lot of our books through our own website, and through Amazon and other online booksellers. We are also finding that providing online content to libraries is increasingly important - particularly with journal issues. On the other hand, the publishing industry has spent a long time developing e-books, and they are still a relatively small (but growing) part of the market - some of the discussion around that could probably be categorised as noise. The Internet only really represents a threat if we do not learn to use it to our, and ultimately our readers, advantage. So far I think we are doing OK.
Editorial Boards of learned Tourism Journals feature (are crammed with sometimes) accomplished academics representing prestigious, successful schools, but one can see few - if any - practitioners, entrepreneurs, officials, travel writers, or - indeed seasoned travellers! This seems paradoxical, as tourism is an ancient practical endeavour, yet only recently an academic discipline. How do you explain this?
As discussed before, I think tourism studies suffers less from academic isolationism than some disciplines. However, the fact remains that involvement in the high-level, academic research is time-consuming and unpaid (if you are outside the University system).
A cynic could note that in the world of academic publishing demand and supply is one and the same, in a sort of loop arrangement: Academics who are on an editorial board, recommend a journal to the university library, that buys it, for the students of the academic to read, and his researchers to publish research in. As only libraries buy the journal, the journal is expensively priced, with few advertisements, and as it is expensive - yet free inside libraries, few outsiders buy it and read it, and the loop closes somewhere there. This is probably a caricature of the situation, but are there any elements of truth in it? And if so, is this necessary so as to maintain quality and avoid commercialism?
In that case I am probably a cynic. Supply and demand are, to quite a large degree, one and the same, with much of the academic research being absorbed by other academics, who then develop further research etc. Efforts are being made to widen the dissemination of this information, with some success. However, I don't think that academic journals are going to be the only way that this is done. Whilst it is vital that platforms exist for specialised, peer reviewed academic research, by their very nature they may not be the best platform for communicating research to the outside world. It is vital that the academic world explores numerous avenues of communication - partly this will mean making journals more accessible, but academics also need to repackage information from their internal debates to make it more relevant for an external audience. This can be done through newsletters, workshops, the internet, conferences etc. Publications like ECOCLUB and Planeta which present important research information to the wider audience of practitioners, and create dialogue between academics, practitioners and consumers are an important part of this process. We must seek ways to increase the flow of information between our various 'worlds'. I don't think Channel View are going to see any of our journals top the best sellers list in the near future.
Unsold, sometimes genetically modified, foodstuff can find its way to aid programs, something which is both humanitarian, and less wasteful. Are book donation programs to developing countries to be seen in the same light, or are they inherently more altruistic, and most importantly, more successful in eradicating knowledge famine?
Book donation programmes can be a valuable part of a wider effort to alleviate the imbalance in access to knowledge and information. However, they do obviously carry a risk that outdates, or inappropriate materials are dumped on institutions in poorer countries. We try to work closely with the organisations we support, including Bookaid and the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP), to make sure our efforts are genuinely useful. I think any programme of book or subscription donation has to be met with an equally concerted programme of also supporting the production of information from the developing world. This means both encouraging submissions to existing publications, and encouraging and supporting publications and publishing houses in the developing world itself. Only then will we see a truly inclusive scientific debate emerging.
You are publishing many titles dealing with sustainable development but what about sustainability in the publishing business itself. What is nowadays the state of the art in terms of environmental sustainability in your sector: sustainably harvested trees, less chemicals, new types of ink, printing on demand?
It's a mixed bag, I'm afraid. Printers have certainly cleaned their act up in terms of toxic pollutants and digital printing has undoubtedly helped in this process. However, information regarding sources of paper, and the supply of recycled and/or reliably certified book paper is not what it could be. The problem is perhaps exacerbated by the fact that paper purchasing decisions are often made by the printer, so unless a customer specifies recycled, or certified product, then they will often go for the cheapest option. However, a new campaign from Greenpeace is aiming to work with publishers at phasing out unsustainable sources of timber from their paper supply. This was done in Canada with dramatic results (greatly aided by the support of J.K. Rowling!). As publishers started announcing their intention to switch to certified and/or recycled paper, and as printers started putting pressure on paper suppliers, the quality and quantity of supply improved greatly, and prices began to drop. On a personal level, we have been working on our own environmental impact for some time. We have taken most steps available to us within our immediate control, for example changing to a renewable energy supplier, reducing our conference flights and offsetting the emissions from the rest, and switching paper supply for our office to recycled paper. I'm now warming up for the tougher job of looking at paper supply for our books in more detail.
Are Multimedia in one form or the other, at some stage going to totally replace printed matter- as a sort of anti-matter- or will the two merge? And what would happen when this anti-matter finally merges with matter: a publishing explosion or the death of publishing?
At the moment, most of the new technologies appear to co-exist with traditional publishing fairly harmoniously. I must admit that I am not one to keep up with technology too closely, so I couldn't say what the future holds. The one thing that you can be certain of is that these developments won't mean the death of publishing. To my mind publishing is simply the process of packaging, editing, producing, promoting and disseminating information. The methods in which this is done will change somewhat. Whether or not the companies currently in publishing are able to keep up with new technologies, and new demand for consuming information in different ways, remains to be seen. If not, they will be replaced by others who are able to fill this role - these new players will still be publishers of some kind, even if they don't call themselves that. The demand for a printed product still seems high for the moment.
Is there anything else you would like to say to our readers?
We would welcome feedback on our new open-access backissue archive. Please visit www.channelviewpublications.net and do feel free to contact us with any comments, questions or queries.
Thank you very much.
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