Temple Times Online Edition
    OCTOBER 13, 2005
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Temple U. Press title captures prestigious Merton book award

The Gold Standard by Stefan Timmermans and Marc Berg

Temple University Press’ 2003 publication The Gold Standard: The Challenge of Evidence-Based Medicine and Standardization in Health Care has been awarded the prestigious Robert Merton Professional Book Award.

Selected by the Science, Knowledge, and Society section of the American Sociological Association, the award is given annually to recognize the best a scholarly book or body of work published in the past three years in the area of science, knowledge and technology.

The Gold Standard, by Stefan Timmermans and Marc Berg, addresses standardization in healthcare policy, a topic of debate that the authors address in terms of patients and doctors, the relationships between them and the institution of medicine.

Hailed by reviewers as “setting the standard for the study of standardization in medicine” and “in the realm of monumental works like Paul Starr’s Pulitzer Prize-winning [book],” The Gold Standard is Timmermans’ second with the press. These reviews, in publications as diverse as The American Journal of Sociology, The Journal of Legal Medicine and The Journal for Healthcare Quality, as well as the book’s use in sociology and medical school courses, has allowed it to exert an influence well beyond what its sales — just under 1,000 copies — might at first suggest, said Temple University Press director Alex Holzman.

“Recognitions such as this demonstrate how the work we do furthers both scholarship and public policy debates,” Holzman said. “They also enhance Temple’s and the Press’ profiles nationwide and help us attract the very best books for future publication.”

“We’re proud that Temple University Press does such a good job of finding and supporting important publications such as The Gold Standard,” Provost Ira Schwartz said. “Since its founding in 1969, TUP has led the way for other presses, from being one of the first to publish in the fields of the fields of women’s studies and ethnic studies, to being a clear leader in social sciences and the humanities.”

Temple University Press is highly selective — many of its authors are senior scholars whom the Press recruits and commissions — and its manuscripts routinely go through a rigorous review process, involving first the editors on staff, then peer reviewers from relevant academic departments around the country, and finally the Press Editorial Board, which is composed of Temple faculty from a wide variety of disciplines. The board, currently chaired by sociology department professor Kevin Delaney, must approve all books to be published by the Press.

“This is the special contribution that academic presses make — the publication of very important books that have a wide impact despite limited sales,” President David Adamany said.

Temple University Press, which publishes works on a range of topics in the humanities and social sciences, has its share of regional bestsellers, as well. Books such as Philadelphia Murals and the Stories They Tell, Larry Kane’s Philadelphia and The Eagles Encyclopedia serve the University’s broader constituency of citizens who live in the Philadelphia region. The healthy sales of these titles help make the award-winning, but more modestly selling, scholarly publications possible. And on occasion, a regional scholarly book will fulfill both functions, selling well and winning awards, such as the American Meteorological Association’s Louis Battan Award, given recently to The Philadelphia Area Weather Book.

Holzman added that the award is a particular honor because it is named for Temple alumnus Robert Merton. The first sociologist to receive the National Medal of Science, Merton earned his bachelor’s degree from Temple in 1931 and returned for an honorary doctor of laws in 1956. He served as 47th president of the American Sociological Association, and is considered one of the most influential theorists of the 20th century.

The Merton Professional Book Award is part of a trend of Temple University Press books winning substantive awards, Holzman said.

In November 2004, College and Research Libraries ranked scholarly publishers in terms of the number of prizes they won from leading social science associations in the 1990s. Temple came in ninth with 10 awards, in line with major scholarly publishers such as Cambridge University Press and Harvard University Press.

“The thing to remember is that other top-ranked presses in the study publish well above 100 books a year, and we publish closer to 50,” Holzman said. “On a major-prize-per-book-published basis, we rank in the top five.”

- By Betsy Winter