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SIPRI Yearbook: "The world needs it."

October 18, 2019

Oxford University Press first published the SIPRI Yearbook on 19 June 1986. The Yearbook had, by then, already established itself as the authoritative point of reference for anyone interested in armaments and disarmament, and the ever-changing dynamics of war and peace across the globe. The match with Oxford University Press seemed, on paper – and in those days there was only paper – an entirely natural one, and so it has proved in practice across the subsequent three decades and more. It seemed natural because both institutions shared a number of fundamental values and goals, centring on that word ‘authoritative’ but also on the sharing of human understanding across societies and around the world.
It’s a truism to say that the world in 1986 was a very different from the one we see today, but this was notably the case in geopolitics. The world was underpinned by a bipolar balance of power, and prone to periodic bouts of arms racing and existential nuclear fear, in a way that seemed an intrinsic feature of international relations. All that was to change rapidly, and for a brief while after the end of the cold war, we wondered if the relevance of the Yearbook might wane. It did not.
The 1993 Yearbook published two weeks after I arrived at the Press. Those early weeks, my first in publishing, are a bit of a blur, and I can remember very little about the lead-up to publication. In truth the hard work had already been done, but I was acutely aware that its production and appearance was an event of significance, both inside and outside the Press.
The arrival each year of the text for the Yearbook is an event for us. A flurry of activity, in which, truth be told (and with due apologies to our other authors), everything else gets dropped for a bit and we work together to a set of tightly defined schedules to publish the book as fast as possible. Now that we are in a digital world, and the book appears in complementary print and online editions, the number of people involved has grown significantly. In the early years, a handful of us – a couple from editorial, a production controller, jacket designer, and a marketer – would scurry around. With the advent of the online edition, we have had Digital Producers, Digital Content Controllers, Content Architects, and a number of external suppliers all beavering away hand-in-hand with the print operation. The basic business of simply coordinating all these stakeholders is a big job.
The publishing of the SIPRI Yearbook has been a defining and recurring feature of my time with OUP. I suggested earlier that, as institutions, we shared certain fundamental goals and values and that has underpinned our publishing relationship. That is the reason why, after more than a quarter of a century producing books on politics and international relations, the Yearbook stands out as a milestone of my career and a highlight of my publishing year. Long may it be so. The world needs it.

 - Dominic Byatt, OUP Social Sciences Publisher