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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

  • Social Sciences

The philosopher of Palo Alto

Apple’s recent product launch on 12 September has cast into the mainstream technologies that were first envisioned by Mark Weiser in the 1990s, when he was Chief Technologist at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). Though Weiser died in 1999, at the age of 46, his ideas continue to inspire cutting-edge smartphone innovations. Now is a good time to revisit Weiser’s ideas.

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Brexit versus UK higher education

Higher education has generally been reckoned to be one of the UK’s success stories, competing with the best American universities and setting the standard against which universities in other European countries measure themselves. UK universities receive roughly €1bn a year from European programs, as well as scooping up many of the brightest students from around Europe who want to study in Britain.

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Labour unions and solidarity in times of precarity

=Labour unions have traditionally been at the forefront of the struggle to improve job security, pay, and working conditions. The widely observed growth in precarious work in recent decades is a result of union weakness, as they are increasingly likely to lose these battles. Many have argued that unions often promote the job security of their ‘insider’ core members at the expense of more precarious ‘outsiders.’

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Open access: reflections on change

Sally Rumsey shares her reflections on the changing open access environment and experiences from the University of Oxford. Cast your mind back 15 years to the earlier days of open access. In 2002 the University of Oxford contributed to the SHERPA project, with a collaborative pilot between the then OULS (Oxford University Library Services) and OUP. In 2006 we set up a new institutional repository service that launched very quietly in early 2007.

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The Oxford Place of the Year 2017 is…

Our polls have officially closed and the results are in: our Place of the Year for 2017 is Puerto Rico. Although it was a tight race between Catalonia and Puerto Rico in both the long- and shortlist polling, the events that have occurred in this Caribbean Island in the past year have truly resonated with our followers who partook in voting.

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POTY 2017 nominee Spotlight: the sun [excerpt]

How big is the Moon in the sky? What is its angular size? Extend your arm upward and as far from your body as possible. Using your index finger and thumb, imagine that you are trying to pluck the Moon out of the sky ever so carefully, squeezing down until you are just barely touching the top and bottom of the Moon, trapping it between your fingers. How big is it?

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The Great Terror in Soviet Ukraine: a timeline

Between the summer of 1937 and November 1938, the Stalinist regime arrested over 1.5 million people for “counterrevolutionary” and “antisoviet” activity and either summarily executed or exiled them to the Gulag. This was Stalin’s “Great Terror” and, contrary to popular belief, the largest number of victims were not elites or “Old Bolsheviks,” but common people. Below is a timeline of The Great Terror in Soviet Ukraine.

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Place of the Year nominee spotlight: North Korea

Today Northeast Asia confronts the world with a volatile mix of geopolitical competition and nuclear threats unseen since the beginning of the Cold War. The imbroglio over a nuclear armed and very dangerous Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) involving the United States, China, Republic of Korea (ROK), and other actors epitomizes this peril.

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Is “food waste” really wasted food?

Food waste has become a major cause for concern in the United States. Or at least, that’s what some prominent organizations suggest. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations estimates that the United States wastes 103 million tons of food. The statistics suggest that food waste is a problem, but how do these organizations calculate them? And what, exactly, is food waste?

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Understanding secularism [excerpt]

“The separation of religious institutions from state ones had also been a feature of societies elsewhere, and at other times in history.” What is secularism? In the following extract from Secularism: Politics, Religion, and Freedom, Andrew Copson breaks down 3 different parts of the definition of secularism, its history, and how its meaning has developed over time.

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Historical Commemoration and Denial in Australia

Last month a statue commemorating Captain James Cook in Hyde Park in Sydney, Australia was attacked, the words ‘Change the date’ spray-painted on it. This act continues recent protests by indigenous people and their supporters which have called for the changing of the day upon which Australia celebrates its founding: 26 January 1788.

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Place of the Year nominee spotlight: Catalonia

The Catalan independence movement was frequently in the news in 2017, earning Catalonia its place among the nominees for Oxford University Press’s Place of the Year. While tensions seemed to come to a head this year, the independence movement has a long history of clashes with the Spanish government, beginning with the separatist movements of the mid-19th century.

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The problem with a knowledge-based society

In the last few decades, few concepts have spoken to the imagination of economists like the ‘knowledge based economy’ or ‘knowledge economy’ within Western policy circles. There has been a consensus that Western economies have entered a phase in economic history called the ‘knowledge’ or ‘knowledge-based’ era. The brains of the workforce are thought to be the most important contributor to today’s wealth creation.

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Place of the Year nominee spotlight: Puerto Rico [quiz]

In September 2017, two powerful hurricanes devastated Puerto Rico. Two months later, 50% of the island is still without power, and residents report feeling forgotten by recovery efforts. From the controversy of hiring a small Montana-based electrical company, Whitefish, to restore power to the island; to the light shone on the outdated Jones Act, the humanitarian crisis following the hurricanes catapulted Puerto Rico to the world stage.

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Beer and brewing by numbers [infographic]

Beer has been a vitally important drink through much of human history, be it just as a drink that was safe to consume when water might not have been, through to having significant economic and even political significance. The earliest written laws included regulations on beer, tax income from beer funded centuries of British imperialist conquests, and beer is the subject of the oldest international trademark dispute.

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In the zone: how balancing stress levels improves performance [excerpt]

Athletes’ maximum performance, also known as peak performance, is often characterized or accompanied by what is called a “flow state” or “peak experience.” Athletes describe this state as being “on automatic pilot,” “totally involved,” “hot,” “on a roll,” “in a groove,” or “in the zone.” An excellent example is provided by the great German goalkeeper Oliver Kahn in the 2001 champions league final game, between his team FC Bayern Munich and FC Valencia.

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