The Canadian Institute for Studies in Publishing (CISP) is the research arm of Publishing @ SFU (formerly called the Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing). The CISP hosts a broad range of research activities carried out by SFU faculty, staff, and students, who, in collaboration with other universities and industry, are seeking to advance our understanding of publishing models and practices.

With expertise in both trade (book and magazine) and scholarly publishing, the CISP’s research covers a broad range of themes, including the impact of digital technologies in the cultural sector; book, periodical, and digital media history; sociology of knowledge; the evolution of scholarly communication; open access; bibliometrics, and audience measurement.

Evolution of Scholarly Communication

The field of scholarly communication has undergone significant change in recent years, with the introduction of digital technologies, financial pressures for academic institutions, and increased competition. As the environment shifts, the CISP works to identifying and understanding new challenges and opportunities that present themselves, in order to improve the processes of knowledge dissemination. Below are some of our ongoing projects in the area:

In 2014, the Andrew W Mellon Foundation launched a broad-based initiative to help move scholarly monographs into the digital age. The Mellon Foundation invited John Maxwell and CISP to provide an external evaluation of the funding initiative and help make sense of the variety of activity in this area. Our final report (May 2016) was based on consultations with the various grantees and the monograph publishing community across North America, and appeared in the Journal of Electronic Publishing 20 (1) [also available as a PDF].

In 2018 CISP began a second study, under the auspices of a grant from MIT Press, to conduct a landscape analysis of available open-source publishing software. This report is designed to make sense of a very complex and dynamic field and to help guide project planning and development decisions across the community going forward. We expect to release a report in spring 2019.

Advances in digital media have transformed the nature of scholarly communication, offering novel ways for academics to share their research and connect with different audiences. Among them is the podcast, an increasingly popular but under-researched form of knowledge sharing. In collaboration with Siobhan McMenemy, Senior Editor at Wilfrid Laurier University Press, SFU’s Hannah McGregor is working to devise a new editorial methodology for the evaluation, editorial and production revision, peer review, and design and dissemination of scholarly podcasts. An assistant professor in SFU’s publishing department, McGregor is also the host and producer of Secret Feminist Agenda—the first podcast to have undergone the rigorous peer evaluation process.
CISP is an active partner with the Implementing New Knowledge Environments (INKE) research group (based at the University of Victoria). This multi-year, cross-Canada initiative seeks to prototype new forms of open, networked, scholarly communication via ‘publication in practice.’ How can a networked scholarly community like INKE capture its own ongoing discourse, rendering it durable, citable, and reliable? How does ongoing scholarly communication in the humanities transform the research process itself?

Scholarly Communications Lab

The ScholCommLab is an interdisciplinary team of researchers based in Vancouver and Ottawa interested in all aspects of scholarly communication. It is co-directed by Dr. Juan Pablo Alperin, an assistant professor in SFU’s Publishing Program and an associate researcher with the Public Knowledge Project, and Stefanie Haustein, an assistant professor at the School of Information Studies at the University of Ottawa. Using a combination of computational techniques, innovative methods, and traditional qualitative methods, the lab explores a wide range of questions about how knowledge is produced, disseminated, and used. A few of the lab’s recent projects include:

As the communication of research increasingly takes place on social media and other online platforms, there is enormous potential to capture and analyze digital traces left by scholars. This offers, for the first time, the opportunity to study at large scale—using both quantitative and qualitative methods—the processes of knowledge dissemination and co-creation between academia and the public. Taking advantage of this opportunity, the altmetrics project asks: What is the nature and extent of societal impact of research that can be observed through the public’s engagement with research in the digital sphere?
One of the key components of workplace advancement at the university level are the review, promotion, and tenure (RPT) packets that are typically submitted every other year by early career faculty. These guidelines and forms are considered to be of highest importance, as they allow faculty to demonstrate the value and impact of their work to the university and the broader scientific community. The importance of RPT guidelines and forms makes them a natural place to effect change towards an opening of access to research (something both Canada and the US have been pushing for through federal policies and laws). While we believe changes in RPT guidelines and forms may lead to broader interest and adoption of open access principles across academia, the reality is that very little is known about current RPT practices. This two-part research project seeks to examine the RPT process in the US and Canada in ways that can directly inform actions likely to translate into behavioural change and to a greater opening of research. Want to find out more? Read about the first phase of the study on Nature, Inside Higher Ed, and the Chronicle of Higher Education.
New platforms such as blogs, snapchat, and YouTube are rapidly transforming the world’s media landscape—as well as the way in which we share, consume, and engage with scholarly work. The ScholCommLab is investigating these new developments in science communication, asking such questions as: Who is sharing science in today’s digital world, and how do they identify themselves? What strategies are most effective for communicating research in a crowded media landscape? How might the public contribute to the way in which science news is shared, portrayed, and understood? Find out more about science communication at the ScholCommLab.
Although interest in Open Access (OA) to scholarly literature is growing, relatively little is known about the prevalence, characteristics, and implications of this emerging body of work. Does openness affect citation impact? What percentage of scholarly literature is currently OA, and has this changed in recent years? How have digital advances changed the nature of scholarly publishing? The ScholCommLab is investigating these questions and more in a series of large-scale, collaborative projects.

History of Publishing

With an half millennium of history to explore, the research interests under this theme are varied, but all seek to uncover how the practice of publishing has evolved over time, how it has been influenced by the world around it, and how it has influenced that world in turn. Below are some of our ongoing projects in the area:

In 2015, in honour of the five-hundredth anniversary of the death of Renaissance publisher Aldus Manutius, the CISP worked with SFU Library’s Special Collections to create an online platform showcasing digitized volumes from SFU’s outstanding Wosk–McDonald Aldine Collection. The prototype website, Aldus@SFU, comprises twenty-one fully digitized editions printed during Aldus’ lifetime (1501–1515); a second group of Aldines, including a representative selection from the years after Aldus’ demise (1515–1529), was digitized in 2018 and will be available to the public in 2019. The project, led by Alessandra Bordini, will enter a new phase next year, with the development of a new version of the website. Learn more about Aldus@SFU in this interview for the DHIL blog.
A collaboration between literary scholars, designers, and librarians from Concordia University and Simon Fraser University, the SpokenWeb is 7-year SSHRC-funded Partnership Grant focused on digitizing and mobilizing literary sound archives in Canada. Using digitized live recordings of a Montreal poetry reading series, the project seeks to identify the features of the recordings that are most conducive to scholarly engagement. Drawing from their findings, the team plans to create a tool that can be used by memory institutions across the country to make their digitized literary recordings available to scholars. As part of the project, SFU’s Hannah McGregor is developing a student-led podcast series that will activate audio archives through scholarly storytelling.
An extension of Hannah McGregor’s SSHRC-funded postdoctoral research, the Modern Magazines Project Canada bridges the areas of periodical studies, middlebrow studies, Canadian literature, and digital humanities. In partnership with the University of Alberta Libraries and the Manitoba Legislative Library, it has facilitated the digitization of The Western Home Monthly, a household magazine printed out of Winnipeg between 1899 and 1932. In collaboration with Katja Lee, Dr. McGregor has also edited a forthcoming essay cluster for Modernism/modernity’s Print+ platform that challenged scholars from across disciplines to explore the digitized Western Home Monthly.
John Willinsky‘s new (2018) book seeks to establish how a prototypical form of intellectual property emerged from within medieval monasteries and cathedral schools, and all the more so through the universities, from the medieval to Early Modern era. This pre-history culminates with Locke’s theory of property and early copyright law at the turn of the seventeenth century. Both can be shown to support distinctions that still set learned intellectual properties apart from other sorts, and that tend to be lost sight of amid the current intellectual-property gold rush. Published by the University of Chicago Press, Dr Willinsky has also made available an Open Access draft of the book.
A wide-ranging inquiry tracing the early histories of technological change in Canadian publishing, largely centering on the pioneering digital innovation at Toronto’s Coach House Press in the 1970s and 1980s. This research blends cultural history with media archaeology and software studies. An article by John Maxwell, “Coach House Press in the ‘Early Digital’ Period: A Celebration,” appeared in Devil’s Artisan: A Journal of the Printing Arts. 77, Fall/Winter 2015.

Design Research

From print to digital, design is the hub where all publishing activities intersect. Research in the area considers the significance of published works as products, the production process and workflows, and how the design and materiality of texts influences audience reception. Some of our current projects in the area are listed below:

Amanda Lastoria’s doctoral research project explores the industrial mediation of the text via the materiality, and material evolution, of the book. Using multiple editions of a single title – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – as a case study, it seeks to document, historicize and interrogate the ways in which the design and production values of the book multiply and diversify the markets and meanings of the text. The project combines methods and tools of bibliography, book history, publishing history, literary theory and design theory.
Throughout Publishing 431, students in the publishing program questioned how form and content can enhance or distort the experience of reading, what roles a designer can play in the publishing process, and the importance (or lack of importance) of a public when creating a publication. This inquiry culminated in Sum of Our Memories, an exhibition exploring different facets of the theme memory while investigating the formats of publication and the act of publishing itself. Part research, part creative expression, the exhibition encouraged audiences to engage all of their senses—vision (by reading publications), touch (by picking up publications and comparing their papers and finishes), taste (by nibbling on retro candy), hearing (by listening to music) and smell (by sniffing “infused” publications)—in order to enhance the reading experience and create new memories.
Can crafts be used as a pedagogical tool? Since September 2016, Mauve Pagé has been teaching publication design to undergraduate and graduate students who range from having little or no interest in design to years of experience. She has introduced crafts into her teaching practice as a way to bridge the gaps between students and ensure they focus on mastering design concepts, rather than simply learning software. This new research project puts her anecdotal experiences with crafts to the test, asking how simple activities involving pipe cleaners and construction paper might boost classroom engagement, enhance the learning experience, and encourage students to explore their creativity in a non-digital way.
A course taught by John Maxwell each June at the Digital Humanities Summer Institute (DHSI); it provides a hands-on introduction to the accumulated wealth of text processing strategies and tactics from the past four decades: using them, and considering them in the context of the cultural histories of computing and publishing technology from which they arise. Over the week we work with a range of tools and toolkits, and explore methods for integrating and making text processes more efficient and more convivial — from venerable Unix tools (like regular expressions) to XML and markup concepts through to latter-day digital production methodologies. Please see for registration info.

Publishing as Social Change

How can publishers contribute to advancing and supporting social change? What issues and considerations must to be addressed in order to create a publishing industry that is fair, inclusive, and accountable? A selection of recent projects focussing on publishing from a social change perspective are outlined below:

Publishing Unbound first started as a three-day symposium organized by SFU’s Publishing department, the Association of Book Publishers of BC, and the Magazine Association of BC. It brought together authors, activists, scholars, and publishing professionals from across the country for a conversation about systemic barriers to accessing Canadian publishing and the often-exclusive world of Canadian writing known as CanLit. As a followup to the event itself, the team is currently developing both an event report and set of free, collectively authored resources to help publishers and authors work towards a more inclusive, diverse, and accountable Canadian publishing industry. CISP Press intends to publish the results in various formats to broaden the reach and impact as much as possible.
Literary celebrity. White power. Appropriation. English Canadian Literature has been at the heart of several recent public controversies, breaking open to reveal the accepted injustices at its core. Refuse: CanLit in Ruins (BookThug, 2018) offers a much needed response to these events, providing the critical and historical context needed to understand current conversations about CanLit. Edited by Hannah McGregor, Julie Rak, and Erin Wunker, the collection features essays by a diverse collection of Canadian writers, including Kai Cheng Thom, Zoe Todd, Joshua Whitehead, and others, foregrounding the perspectives of those at the centre of these challenging debates.
In 2016, the Internet is far from a safe space for women—even less so for trans women, women of colour, queer women, Indigenous women, and women whose identities otherwise lie at the intersection of multiple forms of oppression. A special issue of the open access journal Atlantis begins from that danger, but it also begins from the possibilities feminist publics and counterpublics actively foster, the communities they form, and the audiences they hail as they negotiate the incredibly fraught space of the Internet. Edited by Hannah McGregor, Marcelle Kosman, and Clare Mulcahy, the collection incorporates works by feminist scholars including Jacqueline Wernimont, Michele White, and Erin Wunker, as well as interviews with activists Alicia Garza, Virgie Tovar, and the editorial collective of GUTS Canadian Feminist Magazine.

Master of Publishing Graduate Research

The CISP’s Master of Publishing students engage in independent research throughout the program, on range of topics relevant to the publishing industry. Their work in the Publishing Industries and Technology and Evolving Forms of Publishing seminars is available publicly.

Following a 13-week internship, the students also complete a research project report designed to be of value to the host company, future students, and larger community of those who have an interest in publishing. These reports provide a unique view of current practices in publishing framed by what students learn in the masters program. A selection of these reports is available SFU’s Summit repository.

Research Partnerships

PKP – The Public Knowledge Project is a multi-university initiative developing (free) open source software and conducting research to improve the quality and reach of scholarly publishing.

INKE – INKE is a collaborative group of researchers and graduate research assistants working with other organizations and partners to explore the digital humanities, electronic scholarly communication, and the affordances of electronic text.

Select Publications & Presentations

Alperin, J. P., Fischman, G. E., McKiernan, E. C., Muñoz Nieves, C., Niles, M. T., & Schimanski, L. (2018). How significant are the public dimensions of faculty work in review, promotion, and tenure documents?, eLife[Preprint]. doi:10.17613/m6w950n35

Bordini, A. (2018). Imagining a Networked Global Digital Space for SFU Library’s Aldine Collection. Paper presented at the 49th NeMLA Annual Convention, Pittsburgh, PA.

Bordini, A. (2019). Why Rare Books Matter and To Whom: Translating the Value of Special Collections in Digital Form. Roundtable presented at the 50th NeMLA Anniversary Convention, Washington, DC.

Bordini, A., & Maxwell, J. W. (2018). Beyond Access: Remediating and Curating SFU Library’s Aldines Online. Invited Talk presented at the Material Texts Colloquium, Seattle, WA.

Lastoria, A. (forthcoming). Bibliography of Canadian Alice Books.’ (Working title.). In J. Lindseth (Ed.), Much of a Muchness. Ireland: Evertype.

Lastoria, A. (forthcoming). Lewis Carroll, Art Director: Recovering the Design and Production Rationales for Victorian Editions of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Book History.

Lastoria, A. (2015). Lastoria List of Titles for Tenniel’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland Illustrations. The Carrollian, 26, 44–51.

Maxwell, J. W. (2015a). Beyond Open Access to Open Publication and Open Scholarship. Scholarly and Research Communication, 6(3). doi:10.22230/src.2015v6n3a202

Maxwell, J. W. (2015b). Coach House Press in the ‘Early Digital’ Period: A Celebration. Devil’s Artisan: A Journal of the Printing Arts, 77, 9–20.

Maxwell, J. W., Bordini, A., & Shamash, K. (2017). Reassembling Scholarly Communications: An Evaluation of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s Monograph Initiative (Final Report, May 2016). The Journal of Electronic Publishing, 20(1). doi:10.3998/3336451.0020.101

McGregor, H. (2017). Digitizing the Banal: The Politics of Recovery. Studies in Canadian Literature, 42(2), 256–280.

McGregor, H. (2018). Fandom, Feminism, and Maker Pedagogy. Hybrid Pedagogy.

Piwowar, H., Priem, J., Larivière, V., Alperin, J. P., Matthias, L., Norlander, B., … Haustein, S. (2018). The state of OA: a large-scale analysis of the prevalence and impact of Open Access articles. PeerJ, 6, e4375. doi:10.7717/peerj.4375