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Editorial Director Tamsine O'Riordan on Palgrave’s Reaction to Covid-19

We are all learning to adapt and adjust to the significant changes the Covid-19 pandemic has introduced to our lives. Tamsine O'Riordan, Editorial Director for Social Science books, discusses how the team at Palgrave Macmillan have approached a new way of working and the important role the social sciences play in these challenging times.

How have the Social Sciences team at Palgrave been adapting to working in the midst of a pandemic?

I’m really proud of how my team of Publishers, Editors and Assistants are managing to continue our work during the Covid-19 pandemic. They’re bringing incredible levels of energy and resilience that allow us to continue our mission to publish the leading global social science research, from living rooms, home-offices and kitchen tables across the world.

We’re working hard to stay in touch with each other; we have online team meetings and a team chatroom that is meant to replicate the experience of sharing office spaces – the rule is that you can’t talk about work, although the phrase “we should probably find a book on this” has been typed more than once!

Most importantly, we’re working really hard to stay in touch with our current and future authors. A great deal of what we do is already conducted by email and telephone, however there’s a huge amount of value in meeting authors and series editors face-to-face, so we also spend a lot of time on the road visiting academic conferences and campuses to hear about new developments in research and meet new and existing authors. All of our campus and conference visits have been cancelled or postponed since the start of March, and with this continuing into September and beyond it looks likely we’ll be desk-based for the foreseeable future.

However, being part of the largest scholarly book publisher in the world we are lucky to be able to draw on strong technological infrastructure, and have access to robust online-conferencing services that allow us to arrange virtual meetings. We’re also investing more time in social media outreach and other ideas to recreate the author/publisher in-person meetings. Crucially, as we adjust to less travel we’re spending more time curating our programmes and creating longer-term projects and proactive commissions, including major reference works and cutting-edge new series.

There are multiple ways we will all experience and respond to the crises and particularly to social- (we prefer “physical-”) distancing and the global lockdowns; as a mother of two young children I particularly feel the changes increased care labour creates. For myriad reasons, for many people there simply isn’t the time or mental capacity to think about new book ideas or finalizing their manuscript. However for those authors who find they are able and feel keenly the social imperative of publishing their research during this time, you can find the social science editors here, and more information on publishing with Palgrave Macmillan here.

Has Palgrave Macmillan published any content around Covid-19?

Springer Nature moved fast to release a huge amount of content related to Covid-19 for free. The initial focus has been on biological and medical science but with titles such as Pandemics, Publics and Politics and a number of publishing contracts under discussion we plan to increase the social science content to support a wider understanding of the crises. We have commissioned new responses from social scientists for our Social Science Matters Campaign blog on health security and Coronavirus and “free time”, with more to follow soon.

How significant is social science research at this time?

Whilst we’re part of a company that publishes the most essential biological and medical research, it’s hard for us not to see the pandemic through an intersectional, social science lens: from the gendered nature of care labour, a reported severe rise in domestic violence during lockdown, strategies for maintaining wellbeing and good mental health, behavioral science approaches to the use of masks and other (non)compliance with regulations, the impact on incarcerated individuals, inequalities in access to health care, and race-based experiences of the pandemic.  In an article by Gillian Tett in the FT, Christo Lynteris notes that “epidemics should be understood not just as biological events but also as social processes,” with Tett arguing “to put it another way, beating Covid-19 will not just require medical science, but a dose of social science too.” So, we’ll continue to act with patience and understanding to make sure we’re being mindful of what we’re asking of our authors and readers during these tough days, but plan to balance this against our firm belief that the pandemic urgently needs a crucial understanding of individual and group behavior, and that we need to be available to ensure social science research continues to be published.

This blog was adapted from an article which was originally published on The Source