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Fast-track for rush to publish

A Lampeter-based publishing house is trying to attract academics desperate to have their work published before the Research Assessment Exercise deadline next year by offering a fast-track refereed publishing programme in return for cash.

Edwin Mellen Press was last year ordered by the principal of St David's University College to stop using the college's name and address on its stationery after complaints from academics who assumed the press was part of the institution.

It is now offering academics the chance to have their work refereed and published within three months. A recent advertisement in the Times Literary Supplement read: "Meet university deadlines through our 90 day refereed book publishing program."

Academics who want to publish a masters dissertation or a doctoral thesis can sign up for the "international distinguished dissertation" programme.

Young hopefuls are asked to write to Simon Evans, an emeritus professor of the University of Wales and a former St David's academic who ran the college's centre for research and scholarship.

But publication is not free, as it is at the typical academic publishing house. Academics are being charged Pounds 595.

However, the rush to beat the RAE deadline next March, and the fact that university posts are now almost invariably going to academics with a substantial publishing record, means that academics are likely to pay up.

A spokesperson confirmed that the press has received many enquiries from people who are anxious about the RAE.

"Everybody's asking about that," she laughed.

The pressure to publish quickly is affecting all major publishing houses. John Haslam, an editor at the Cambridge University Press, one of the most prestigious publishing houses, said that it had become "a more high-profile consideration".

But he stressed that CUP's "quality threshold" remains intact, pointing out that a monograph still takes around 12 months to publish, and that is only after a protracted refereeing process that can last up to six months.

Susan Blishen, of the Publishers' Association, said that she was surprised by the Edwin Mellen Press programme.

Yet it seems that an Edwin Mellen Press publication will be treated no differently from a CUP one in research assessment.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England, which is conducting the RAE, said that no distinction is drawn between different publishing houses when submitted work is being assessed.

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