(Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Carol Anne Meyer, President, Society for Scholarly Publishing.)
Yesterday, the Board of Directors of the Society for Scholarly Publishing (SSP) unanimously decided to restore the posts by Scholarly Kitchen chef Rick Anderson that had been removed after the Kitchen and SSP received correspondence from a publisher that didn’t like the content.
The posts (“When Sellers and Buyers Disagree” and “One Down, One to Go: Edwin Mellen Press Blinks One Eye“) have been restored without the comment quoted in the letter.
For many reasons I won’t go into the ingredients of the sausage by explaining why the posts came down and why they went back up. I will say that the Board and the Scholarly Kitchen volunteers stand behind Rick’s posts. The Board also stands behind the business and editorial decisions to take them down last week, until we could gather our busy volunteer leaders to fully evaluate the situation.
This decision by the Board is an unusual one. The Board has never before made any kind of editorial decision regarding the Scholarly Kitchen. The Board stepped in here at the request of me, our Executive Director, and Kent Anderson, who is both the SSP Board’s President-elect and the founder, Editor-in-Chief, and driving force behind the Scholarly Kitchen. We requested that the Board evaluate the situation and make a decision because of the impact any action might have on the finances of the organization, the finances of our volunteers, and on our reputation.
During my tenure as President this year, I have said, written, and posted to numerous people on numerous sites and at numerous venues that SSP is unique among membership organizations in scholarly communications in that we do not take political or policy positions. We do, however, most definitely have principles.
The mission of the SSP, which our many active volunteers take to heart, is to foster communication. That means we believe in the freedom of expression. It means that the Society itself does not endorse the opinions expressed on the Scholarly Kitchen blog, or in the pages of Learned Publishing, or from the podiums of our educational and conference programming, or from our social media accounts, or from the phones on our webinars.
No, SSP does not endorse ideas from any of these places. But we believe to our core that our speakers, bloggers, authors, and posters have the right to express their own thoughts.
SSP is unusual in another way. Our members include not just publishers, but librarians, vendors, consultants, researchers, students, retirees, and any individuals or organizations with an interest in scholarly communications. We like to emphasize we are the Society for Scholarly Publishing, not the Society of Scholarly Publishers. Our Board members include society publishers, vendors, librarians, commercial publishers, other associations — a smorgasbord of varied participants in our community.
SSP is largely run by more than 100 active volunteers: Board members and committee members who make the donuts every day. These volunteers include our Kitchen bloggers. Of these volunteers, the Chefs in the Kitchen put in countless hours of their own personal time — they all have day jobs and businesses to run. They have mortgages to pay and kids to feed and clothe and educate. And they get paid nothing for their SSP work. Yes, we rely on an able and professional management company that runs our operations and events. But the decisions and the content and the marketing and the programming and the collaboration and the networking and the professional development and . . . and . . . and — that’s all done by people for chopped liver, and the chance to work alongside some pretty great individuals.
The events of the past weeks have made it clear that SSP has grown up quickly. We will spend time in the very near term looking at our policies and infrastructure so that we know what to do to protect both the continuity of the organization and the freedom of expression of our contributors in the future.
The board and the Scholarly Kitchen volunteers have been overwhelmed with the outpouring of support from the library, research, and internet communities. Bloggers and news outlets have covered the story, and posted links to archived versions of the missing posts. We have received offers for financial help and offers to republish the posts. And we’ve received criticism too. We look forward to continuing our conversations with those of you who have been concerned about the chilling effect that legal threats can have on open dialog as we evaluate and implement new and more formal policies.
So let’s go back to talking about issues in scholarly communication. We do not all agree. Perhaps we never will. But SSP will continue to provide places for these discussions. Let’s continue to challenge each other. Let’s make SSP a salad bowl, not a melting pot. Let’s put enough chairs at the table for everyone.