But­ter­fly ef­fect spawns a cap­i­tal books idea

Pub­li­ca­tion of clas­sic text 100 years ago got ball rolling on pub­lisher’s move of re­gional head­quar­ters, Cheng Yingqi re­ports.

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE -

Nearly a cen­tury ago Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity Press pub­lished H. Glauert’s master­piece The El­e­ments of Aero­foil and Airscrew The­ory, a book that in­tro­duced the prin­ci­ples of aero­dy­nam­ics to the world.

The pub­lisher would have had no idea that the book’s “but­ter­fly ef­fect” — in which a minute, lo­cal­ized event can have a de­ci­sive im­pact at some other place in some other time — would re­shape Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity Press’ di­rec­tion on the other side of the world nearly a cen­tury later.

That hap­pened last month when the pub­lisher moved its Asian head­quar­ters from Sin­ga­pore, where it had been for 15 years, to Bei­jing to get closer to what it re­gards as its core mar­ket.

“China is the most rapidly grow­ing mar­ket for au­thors and cus­tomers, so we are re­view­ing our global foot­print to en­sure our re­sources are best lo­cated to be close to key mar­kets and cus­tomers,” Mandy Hill, man­ag­ing direc­tor of aca­demic pub­lish­ing at Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity Press, told China Daily.

The com­pany sees the but­ter­fly ef­fect of Glauert’s book in a cou­ple of in­ci­dents 10 years ago that con­vinced the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment to ded­i­cate more re­sources to science and tech­nol­ogy.

The first was the suc­cess­ful launch of China’s sec­ond manned space mission, Shen­zhou-6, in 2005.

The sec­ond was a meet­ing be­tween the then pre­mier Wen Ji­abao in the same year with the late Qian Xue­sen, a top rocket sci­en­tist in China. At the meet­ing, Qian asked: “Why can’t the coun­try’s uni­ver­si­ties pro­duce in­no­va­tive sci­en­tific and tech­ni­cal per­son­nel?”

His ques­tion came up again and again dur­ing the past decade, fo­cus­ing at­ten­tion on the is­sue in­side and out­side sci­en­tific cir­cles.

Un­known to most peo­ple, it was The El­e­ments of Aero­foil and Airscrew The­ory that led Qian to the field of aero­dy­nam­ics, said Eric Na, head of aca­demic sales for Asia with Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity Press.

Qian had stud­ied me­chan­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing at Shang­hai Jiao Tong Uni­ver­sity in the 1930s. When the uni­ver­sity sorted through his files many years later, it re­al­ized his fas­ci­na­tion with aero­dy­nam­ics came af­ter he had read Glauert’s book. He even­tu­ally trans­ferred his at­ten­tion to avi­a­tion re­search.

“Of course, we could never have known Qian would read Glauert’s book when we pub­lished it,” Na said.

Fur­ther, he said, the pub­lisher would not have fore­seen that such a reader would make such a great con­tri­bu­tion to Chi­nese science, that he would meet a Chi­nese leader and raise ques­tions about the ad­e­quacy of sci­en­tific ed­u­ca­tion, or that China would in­crease its bud­get on science and re­search to help solve the prob­lem.

“Nei­ther, of course, did we ex­pect the Chi­nese mar­ket to be­come so large that we would move our head­quar­ters from Sin­ga­pore (to Bei­jing) one day.”

When you connect the dots to­gether, Na said, you some­times find that chances crop up when you least ex­pect them to.

“So, here we are, to be at the clos­est po­si­tion to our key mar­ket. It might be too early to es­ti­mate the im­me­di­ate re­ward, but the re­sult is worth an­tic­i­pat­ing.”

Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity Press, of course, is nei­ther the only in­ter­na­tional pub­lish­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion nor the ear­li­est one to seize such an op­por­tu­nity. Al­most all ma­jor pub­lish­ers, in­clud­ing Springer, El­se­vier, Wi­ley-Black­well and Ox­ford Uni­ver­sity Press, pub­lish a to­tal of more than 100 jour­nals in con­junc­tion with Chi­nese pub­lish­ing com­pa­nies.

How­ever, among its peers, Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity Press is the first to move its re­gional head­quar­ters to Bei­jing.

“There are many similarities in that all ma­jor pub­lish­ers rec­og­nize the im­por­tance of the Chi­nese aca­demic com­mu­nity and want to work closely with it,” Hill said. “The closer we are to the mar­ket, the more we un­der­stand China, and the eas­ier we can achieve suc­cess (in China).”

In re­cent years, an in­crease in fund­ing in China has at­tracted many in­ter­na­tional science pub­lish­ers to the coun­try.

The Na­tional Bureau of Statis­tics said re­search and devel­op­ment grants in the coun­try in 2013 amounted to 1.18 tril­lion yuan ($190 bil­lion), ex­ceed­ing 2 per­cent of the coun­try’s GDP for the first time.

The China Aca­demic Li­brary & In­for­ma­tion Sys­tem es­ti­mated that China’s uni­ver­si­ties spend about 320 bil­lion yuan each year on buy­ing data­bases of for­eign science pub­li­ca­tions.

“The sharp in­crease in China’s aca­demic re­sults and pa­per pro­duc­tion is a di­rect re­sult of the coun­try’s science-ed­u­ca­tion devel­op­ment strat­egy,” said Chu Jingli, man­ag­ing deputy edi­tor-in-chief of the Chi­nese Jour­nal of Sci­en­tific and Tech­ni­cal Pe­ri­od­i­cals.

Be­fore 2000, Chi­nese au­thors con­trib­uted no more than 3 per­cent to the to­tal num­ber of aca­demic pa­pers pub­lished world­wide. Be­tween 2002 and 2005, China was ranked fifth in aca­demic pa­per pro­duc­tion. Soon both the num­ber and qual­ity of aca­demic pub­li­ca­tions rose, with the num­ber surg­ing year-on-year un­til China ex­ceeded Ger­many, Bri­tain and Ja­pan to be­come the world’s sec­ond-largest con­trib­u­tor.

The growth in China’s R&D fund­ing has also kept pace with its aca­demic achieve­ment.

In 2005, China’s R&D fund­ing ranked sixth in the world. The over-20 per­cent yearly in­crease in fund­ing from 2005 to 2011, and the 15-18 per­cent growth later, drove the coun­try’s R&D spend­ing to sec­ond place glob­ally by 2013.

This is good news for Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity Press, and sug­gests its de­ci­sion to move to China’s cap­i­tal city is the right one.

As the pub­lisher re­lo­cates the re­gional head­quar­ters, it will ded­i­cate more re­sources to Bei­jing, re­cruit more staff and build closer re­la­tions with Chi­nese academia.

Hill also talked of plans to launch a num­ber of new open-ac­cess jour­nals in science over the next few years. “I hope that many of th­ese will be in col­lab­o­ra­tion with key in­sti­tutes and aca­demics from China,” she said.

“We also hope to at­tract Chi­nese schol­ars to pub­lish their books with Cam­bridge, where we can of­fer them the benefits of high-qual­ity peer re­view, an in­ter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized brand and global dis­sem­i­na­tion.”

In Fe­bru­ary 2013, the com­pany jointly started an in­ter­na­tional jour­nal with China Laser Press, a pub­lisher that fo­cuses on laser and op­tics in China. The joint jour­nal, High Power Laser Science and En­gi­neer­ing, ben­e­fited greatly from co­op­er­a­tion in the as­pects of ed­i­tors’ re­cruit­ment and in­ter­na­tional recog­ni­tion that would take a decade for a do­mes­tic press to achieve.

Lin Zunqi, do­mes­tic edi­tor-inchief of the jour­nal, a laser ex­pert and a mem­ber of the Chi­nese Academy of Sciences, ex­plains the im­por­tance of Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity Press in the joint work: “Aca­demic jour­nals are quite im­por­tant for Chi­nese re­searchers to ex­press their thoughts and show their re­search achieve­ments.”

There are thou­sands of aca­demic jour­nals in China, he said, but only a small pro­por­tion have world­wide in­flu­ence and brands.

“So, it is im­por­tant for a Chi­nese jour­nal to find a for­eign part­ner, be­cause it needs a rec­og­nized in­ter­na­tional plat­form.” Con­tact the writer at chengy­ingqi@chi­nadaily.com.cn


Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity Press in the United King­dom. It is the first in­ter­na­tional pub­lish­ing house to move its re­gional head­quar­ters to Bei­jing.

Mandy Hill, man­ag­ing direc­tor of aca­demic pub­lish­ing at Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity Press

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