Young academics with a book deal in hand are an enviable lot in higher education circles and still a rarity, writes Anthea Lipsett.
The Times Higher Young Academic Author of the Year award aims to be the ultimate publishing accolade for up-and-coming academics. As well as the cachet of winning, there is a prize of £5,000.
The award is aimed at academics aged 40 or under working in a British institution who have produced an original book in the past year. By original, we mean originality of research or interpretation - preferably both.
Although the prize is open to authors of any discipline, those books that have wide appeal across subjects will have the competitive edge. As the award is for the author's academic reputation, not just for the latest book, earlier work can be taken into account by the panel of judges.
Jointly authored works, textbooks, journals and edited collections are ineligible. And the award is neither for monographs nor theses turned into books, but for an author who has used special knowledge to draw significant non-specialised conclusions.
Four judges with records in publishing have been chosen to cover the disciplines. They are: Jon Turney, editorial consultant for Penguin Books and leader of Imperial College London's creative non-fiction writing course; Tony Hey, professor of computation at Southampton University and author of two popular science books; Alex Danchev, professor of international relations at Keele University and author of a number of acclaimed biographies; and June Purvis, professor of women's and gender history at Portsmouth University and author of the critically acclaimed Emmeline Pankhurst: A Biography .
Dr Turney said: "I think it's good to encourage young academic authors to write outside academe. It's never too early to start."
He said the judges would look at whether the books were understandable and interesting outside the author's discipline and ask, "What is its relevance to the greater world?"