In case you hadn’t already heard, the Society for Scholarly Publishing (SSP) — host society to The Scholarly Kitchen — is turning 40 in 2018, and you are all invited to join in the celebrations!

Suffice it to say, scholarly publishing was very different back in 1978. Everything was print only, no online access (no Internet!). Big name publishers from back then, such as Academic Press, Pergamon, Routledge, and others are now either defunct or have been absorbed by one of today’s multinationals. Slow publishing (think, galley proofs sent by snail mail) was the norm rather than an aspiration. The Big Deal was neither a twinkle in an eye nor a thorn in anyone’s side.

ssp logo

So what prompted the founding of SSP? Barbara Myers Ford, who was on the founding Board of Directors, and involved from the start told us that it was the result of, “an interesting confluence of events.”

First, Jim Lufkin, dubbed the “godfather of SSP,” who was leader of the IEEE Conferences back in the 70s, got a promotion at Honeywell and was forced to give up leading the bi-annual conference. It was a major disappointment to the hundreds of folks who faithfully attended. Next, the NSF-funded project, “Improving the Dissemination of Scientific & Technical Information: A Practitioner’s Guide to Innovation” (affectionately known as either “The Innovation Guide” or “The Blue Book” because it was published in a blue binder as it was a looseleaf publication) didn’t receive a third grant as the NSF moved from an applied research to a basic research focus. In addition, Joe Raben, editor of the journal, Computers in the Humanities and friend of the Innovation Guide project, wanted to bring his concept for electronic publishing (nothing like what we call electronic publishing today) to a wider audience, especially colleagues in STM. At the last IEEE conference and again at the last advisory board meeting of the Innovation Guide project, Mark Carroll (Director of Publications, National Park Services) and Fred Spilhaus (Executive Director of the AGU) spoke to the need to maintain the lines of communication between all these groups.  All of this led to the evolution of a new membership organization — the Society for Scholarly Publishing.

Today, SSP has 1,107 members (as of the end of 2017), who work across a wide range of roles and product types — from individual researchers to senior publishing executives, and from blogs and journals to standards and databases. Around two thirds are based on the east coast, and nearly 14% are international. Of the 300 or so individuals who chose to provide demographic data, 59% are women and 84% are white. (Diversity — or rather, the lack of it — is increasingly a topic of discussion for the SSP Board, as well as here on the Kitchen.)

SSP has also significantly expanded its scope! As well as launching The Scholarly Kitchen in 2008 (look out for our own 10th anniversary celebrations in late February!), the Society now has an extensive and well-attended events program, including seminars and workshops, webinars, regional events, and our highly successful annual meeting. It is committed to supporting early-career professionals through its fellowship and mentorship programs; and to increasing diversity, including through a Diversity and Inclusion Task Force as well as its leadership of a cross-industry diversity initiative. And much more! All of this is only possible thanks to the large number of members who volunteer their time to help support SSP, 250 of us at the last count, close to a quarter of the membership! 

We hope that all SSP individual and organizational members, as well as the wider scholarly communications community, will join us in celebrating the Society’s 40th anniversary. We have lots of fun stuff planned throughout the year, starting now with the launch of the official SSP at 40 website, where you’ll find a look back at SSP People and Places in 1999, the 2002 Annual Meeting Program, and photos from SSP’s 30th anniversary in 2008. More content will be added during the course of the year, and you can help! Please upload your SSP photos, stories, memories, and memorabilia to the folder for the relevant decade here so that it can be included on the website. Feel free to add your comments directly on the site too!

We’ll also be painting the town red with a big ruby anniversary party at the 2018 Annual Meeting in Chicago. With music, fireworks, a selfie station, champagne toast, and more, it’s going to be the scholarly publishing party of the year! Registration opens soon, so watch out for more information — and start planning your (red, of course) outfit for the big event (we’ll be taking a group photo to look back at during the 50th in 2028). Exhibitors will be joining in the fun with their own celebrations, and annual meeting attendees will be able to take a trip down memory lane during a panel session with past presidents of SSP from each decade plus president-elect Adrian Stanley.

Throughout the year, we’ll be celebrating SSP’s 40th anniversary here on the Kitchen with a series of posts, including a special Ask the Chefs question, a history of SSP, guest posts by SSP “celebrities” past and present, and more.

What else? Well, we hope that you’ll also share memories and stories on Twitter (please use #SSPat40), contribute to the forthcoming SSPat40 playlist on Spotify (which we’ll draw from during the Anniversary Party), and tell us your suggestions for other ways to celebrate this special year.

To quote SSP president, Jennifer Pesanelli: “With a 40-year-long history, SSP has many great times to reflect on, and we hope you will contribute to and delight in the sharing of these experiences.”

This post was co-authored with Lauren Kane (Chief Operating Officer, BioOne); we are SSP Board members and Co-Chairs of the 40th Anniversary Task Force. Have an idea or want to get involved? Please contact us!

We are very grateful to Melanie Dolechek (Executive Director, SSP) and Barbara Meyers Ford (Director of Marketing & Communications, NFAIS) for their help with this post.

Alice Meadows

Alice Meadows

I am a Co-Founder of the MoreBrains Cooperative, a scholarly communications consultancy with a focus on open research and research infrastructure. I have many years experience of both scholarly publishing (including at Blackwell Publishing and Wiley) and research infrastructure (at ORCID and, most recently, NISO, where I was Director of Community Engagement). I’m actively involved in the information community, and served as SSP President in 2021-22. I was honored to receive the SSP Distinguished Service Award in 2018, the ALPSP Award for Contribution to Scholarly Publishing in 2016, and the ISMTE Recognition Award in 2013. I’m passionate about improving trust in scholarly communications, and about addressing inequities in our community (and beyond!). Note: The opinions expressed here are my own