Note: Today’s post was assembled by Isabel Thompson, one of this year’s SSP Fellowship Award winners, with contributions from several other awardees. It’s rewarding to see that the mentoring aspect of the new SSP Fellowship Program is already making an impact. As Rick Anderson mentioned in yesterday’s Ask The Chefs post, we’ve learned that many of the early career professionals that took part in SSP’s recent early career focused survey look to the Scholarly Kitchen as a source of industry information and trends. The Chefs are all very encouraged and excited by that and we’ll be looking for ways to include content by and for early career folks on the Kitchen in the coming months. Please don’t be shy about sharing your ideas with us!
Who knew there was a Willy Wonka’s golden ticket in publishing? My experience at the Society for Scholarly Publishing’s Annual Meeting blew me away: it’s a long time since I’ve been anywhere that inspired me so much. I know that all of the Fellowship Award winners felt immensely lucky to be at such an invigorating, empowering, and hugely enjoyable conference – and the stunning scenery of Vancouver provided the perfect backdrop. As was the case for many of the others, it was my first conference, and all I can say is that it has set the bar high.
This is the first year of the SSP Fellowship Program. While its previous incarnation (the Travel Grant Program) provided funds to attend the Annual Meeting, the Fellowship Program adds something much more valuable than money: mentorship, and immersion in everything that the SSP has to offer, through the opportunity to join committees and conversations. You can’t put a price on the wealth of knowledge that only comes from experience. But perhaps even more importantly than that, at the meeting all of the mentors made us feel welcome, involved, and valued as parts of the scholarly publishing community. We may be relatively new to the industry, but we weren’t made to feel like it. I think it was clear that we are all filled to bursting with enthusiasm and the desire to get involved, and no doubt this was why we were encouraged to throw ourselves in at the deep end. I’ve come back buzzing, full of new ideas and renewed energy.
The group of twelve Fellows consisted of seven early career professionals and five students – of whom three, including myself, were “international Fellows” from outside the US. The different types of organizations, universities and backgrounds that we represented led to a thought-provoking number of perspectives – some of which you will see below.
So with this in mind, we asked the Fellows, with their “fresh eyes” on the industry and meeting: What Did You Learn At This Year’s SSP Annual Meeting?
Carl C. Haynes; Master of Science in Library and Information Science (MSLIS), Syracuse University (NY)
Will big data fuel predatory publishing? This was one of the concluding questions that intrigued me from the pre-meeting seminar, “All Things Predatory – Tackling Irresponsible and Corrupt Commercial Practices in Publishing and Author Services”.
I was dismayed when Eduardo Franco from McGill University presented emails from predatory publishers who had solicited articles from him and when Duncan MacRae from Wolters Kluwer depicted how individuals exploit the suggested reviewer option that some journals make available. While Dr. Franco highlighted the emailer’s peculiar language, reflected on stories of victims, and shared practices for alerting others, I wondered just how many doctoral students are aware of the predatory practices specific to their field.
Thank goodness there was only a fifteen-minute break. Each of the speakers presented us with a way to move forward by using tools like Think.Check.Submit, creating an institutional ORCID ID, seeking out editing services through Editage and Edanz, utilizing COPE for authorship workflow, and participating in coalitions like the Coalition for Responsible Publication Resources (CRPR).
I learned how important it is for the novice researcher to be aware of these predatory practices — what leads to them (such as bad authorship, the pressure to publish, the need for education and communication, and poor English) — and how to build trust within and outside of the scholarly publishing community through ethical practices.
Cherry Smart; Special Collections Librarian, The University of the West Indies (Jamaica)
I gained a lot of insight about the publishing end of scholarly communication and what an overwhelming task it can be. My major takeaway was the glaring need for education – the need to educate about open access, predatory presses, and the ramifications of ethical and moral choices as researchers. As a librarian, I see a future critical role as mediator, if not partner, in the research and publication process. I also see an opportunity to build networks and offer services to faculty who are perhaps more research-oriented and may not want to be bothered with the logistical part of publishing. I think it is important that, as much as we are sometimes belittled for our gatekeeping practices, we endeavor to keep our institutional repositories “pure”, and if at all possible, shame faculty and young researchers into doing the right thing. Predatory presses would not be making such handsome fortunes but for unethical researchers. An old mantra comes to mind — “evil reigns when good men fail to act”.
I remained inspired by the “All things predatory” team – Donald, Duncan, Eduardo, Anne and Stephen’s presentations as well as Jason and Deborah from the “Publishing Ethics in Challenging Times” session. Thanks again to SSP for the opportunity to attend. See you all in Boston in 2017!
Marcel Knöchelmann; Postgraduate Student, University College London, and Consultant (Intern) at John Wiley & Sons (UK)
I’ve learned how strong the impact of communities on the industry is. And that while we might be able to educate individual customers, we often can’t easily confront whole communities with new, multifaceted concepts.
The abundance of technologies that are visible (and are being pitched) at various conferences proves that there are a lot of opportunities. They raise expectations for revolution and disruption. However, apart from some media outlets and radical advocates, barely anyone waits for a revolution. In fact, parts of the industry are already quite advanced without any disruption, while others still struggle to adapt to basic principles of digital technology. This leads to a diversion of scholarly publishing and a fragmentation of supply and demand. Even the idea of the demand-driven industry creates fragmentation: while many new products and services offer great value, they often only serve certain communities and add new layers to what already exists. Accompanied by the inelasticity of the market, or the fact that researchers actually focus on research and not on publishing (while the latter often has significant impact on future research), diversified publishing shouldn’t be understood as a transition to something more united, but the expression for constant change. For the communities, this is great. For a supplier, this means that defining a strategy is rather tricky. For an aspiring business developer, this all makes it particularly exciting. Hence, it’s handy that the SSP Annual Meeting gathers a great mix of professionals from various fields – all with an openness for discussions. Luckily – to keep up with the change – these discussions have to keep happening. Again. And again. And again.
Nick Michal; Online Peer Review Controller, Cambridge University Press (NY)
The most impactful thing I learned (besides how amazing Vancouver is) was about persistent identifiers: who’s reading them, how they’re ingested and used, and how those processes are standardized in optimal ways. Some facets of the publication process are comprehensively standardized, acting as the “digital plumbing” that, though unseen, makes everything else work (like JATS). Others are more outward-facing, appealing to the preferences of the end-users (like ScienceOpen’s contextual searches or OpenID Connect’s single sign-on). It was mentioned in the Persistent Identifiers session that they need to be thought of as an investment, and I found that pointed to the larger trend of making the industry more interoperable (my vote for conference buzzword). With all this interconnection present it is an exciting, fluid moment in the industry, and while at times the meeting felt as overwhelming as wearing Professor X’s Cerebro device, it was also invigorating and encouraging.
It was a true delight to meet the SSP mentors and experience their dedication to the role, and also to meet the other fellows and hear their perspectives and passions. My conversations revealed that, while our roles within the larger Scholarly Publishing biome may vary, a willingness to collaborate and iterate is essential. So if this group is anything to go by, the future of scholarly publishing seems in good hands.
Erica Y. Hayes; Master of Library Science and Master of Information Science Candidate, Indiana University (IN)
I was struck by this year’s focus on mentorship; it was even the subject of the opening plenary session. It was wonderful to hear the SSP committee members talk about their previous mentoring relationships, both as mentors and mentees. All of the panelists commented on the important role mentorship plays in the early stages of one’s career development, and how both mentor and mentee can grow and learn from one another. My mentor and I discussed many relevant and challenging issues in the fields of scholarly publishing and librarianship – from open access to dealing with the journal impact factor. Indeed, impact factor came up repeatedly in conversations at this year’s annual meeting.
What constitutes “impact” and how can we can ensure our research and scholarly activities are reaching others both within and beyond the academy? While many agree the journal impact factor is a poor way to measure research quality, researchers still feel continually assessed on the basis of what journals they are publishing in and their citation counts. This makes it easy to get caught up in the numbers. But what about other important areas of impact assessment and scholarly productivity activities that should be accounted for, like mentorship and service? Many faculty members serve students as mentors in the form of advisors and members of doctoral committees. After listening to the opening plenary, I was reminded of the important role mentorship plays in the research process of sharing information between scholars, and its greater impact on the disciplines we cultivate and advance. I think the annual meeting did a great job of calling our attention to the important role mentorship plays, both within our professional development and scholarship.
Chaz Lilly; PhD Candidate and Marketing Communications Manager, The University of Texas at Dallas (TX)
To start, SSP has smartly invested in the future by providing resources for students and young professionals to attend the annual meeting. The fellowship program provided instant community: to walk through contemporary issues in scholarly communication with a diverse group of mentors and peers was energizing. As a student, my research revolves around the future of the monograph. ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination offered discussion on potential transformations of the scholarly book. We “sprinted” down our thoughts using the collaborative authoring and publishing tool Overleaf. Some represented our conversation with multimedia; others penned poems. The end result was a multi-authored collection of essays, media and more.
In the panel “Transformative Publishing Platforms for Digital Scholarship in the Humanities,” university presses, largely funded by the Mellon Foundation, presented tools and platforms that aim to make open, networked, living (constantly editable, “always in beta”), digital monographs. I ran up to Susan Doerr from the University of Minnesota Press to discuss Manifold, which promises to think beyond static replications of print. I also found myself racing up to Dr. John Maxwell after he spoke about radical openness and networked books at the closing plenary, “Change is Already Here: Revolutionary Examples.” Dr. Maxwell, who is director of Simon Fraser University’s publishing program, promised to send materials on monographs.
Everyone I chased was accommodating and quick to give out their card. I expect many fruitful conversations to follow. So, the question may not be what did I learn, but what will I learn. Thanks to SSP’s generous fellowship program, I am certainly on a new, exciting path in my research.
Jenny Geyer; Editorial and Marketing Associate, University of Michigan Press (MI)
It is a frustrating reality that the constant and often tumultuous changes in the industry are largely a byproduct of the awesome capabilities that new technologies continue to provide publishers and researchers. However, it is these same technologies that have opened the door to a more globalized and diverse future for scholarly publishing. This is something to celebrate, but perhaps only after tearing our hair out over all the prickly details that come with managing mammoth archives of digital content and databases: labeling, aggregating, disambiguating, etc.
I won’t delve too deeply into the tech-talk. What I do want to talk about is how new technologies are being harnessed to support and develop an increasingly globalized community of researchers. During the 2016 SSP Annual Meeting, I was exposed to an array of support services and platforms that are being engineered specifically to better serve international scholars. I believe strongly in the importance of diversity, especially within STM fields, and it was encouraging to see so many new enterprises focused on providing services to support researchers in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The developers at Overleaf and PaperHive are using cloud-based technologies to provide platforms designed to facilitate real-time discussion and streamline author collaborations. Companies such as American Journal Experts and Editage are offering comprehensive English language editing services and educational resources on best practices for authors looking to have their work published in high impact journals. Diversity and accessibility are core values at the University of Michigan Press, and discovering so much innovation and investment in these ideals by entrepreneurs all over the world was exhilarating.
Jenna Pope; Developmental Editor, John Wiley & Sons (NJ)
It’s an exciting time to be in scholarly publishing. The annual meeting hosted a variety of speakers using new technologies to enhance scholarly communication. It’s become clear that authors want to move past the PDF and on to more engaging media to share their work. To fulfill that need, some in scholarly communication are creating visual descriptions of research with video abstracts, infographics, and embedded interactive graphics. As browsing moves to Web and mobile systems, user experience is being considered and submission systems are being updated to handle the ever-increasing number of submissions and reviews. An infrastructure of persistent identifiers is starting to take shape. Researchers will benefit by making their work and themselves more discoverable and recognizable, submission and review processes will be streamlined, and funding agencies will be able to confirm that their grants are producing usable outputs. But all this fun technology is not without downsides. Predatory journals are more present than ever, due to the ease of posting content online and the confusion arising from new open access models. After the dust settles, we don’t know what aspects of all this new technology will stick around, but it sure is fun to play with in the meantime.
Isabel Thompson; Market Research Analyst, Oxford University Press (UK)
What struck me most, perhaps as an “international fellow” from the exotic confines of the UK, was the impact of different geographies and cultures on questions that can sometimes seem, from one’s own perspective, only to have one answer. We all know that everyone uses Google Scholar and PubMed, right? Wrong. “Everyone” in the northern, western, traditional hemisphere (tetartosphere?) does, but Simon Inger’s presentation pointed out that researchers in poorer countries rate such resources as relatively unimportant for discovery – despite being free and good quality. Is this an issue of awareness? Or perhaps brand trust? Or maybe researchers in those countries find those sites relatively un-useful, as they throw up results in sources they don’t have access to? Regardless, all of a sudden that SEO strategy isn’t giving you the results you anticipated, and increasing Open Access could create workflow implications that, in the longer term, might dwarf the sustainability concerns. An increasingly joined-up world can give the illusion of unity, so it’s easy to underestimate the implications of different cultures and geographies; but publishing in an English language journal doesn’t make you English. Or even American. My take-home message was that publishing still has a long way to go in terms of automatically integrating global perspectives, and that, with increasing smartphone use in Africa, and R&D investment in China, we shouldn’t wait too much longer.
Amongst a host of other things, I also finally learned what it is to “network” (apparently it’s having a fascinating conversation with some wonderful people over a glass of very reasonable wine), and I was quite moved by the welcome we received, and the nurturing and supportive hands held out to us by our mentors. I felt myself invited into a group of like-minded, impassioned people with a whole array of enriching perspectives, and I can’t wait for next year.
On behalf of all the fellows, I’d like to thank the SSP for an incredible conference – and the judges for picking us! For more information on the Fellowship Program, do take a look at the website. And, if you’re eligible, start planning your application for next year!