Editor’s Note: Today’s post is by Betsy Donohue, the VP of Publisher Business Development for Digital Science. Before joining Digital Science in 2013, Betsy worked in a variety of marketing, sales and business development positions, including at the Ingram Content Group, Scope eKnowledge and SWETS.
I had an idea
I was probably about 25 years old. I was working at a non-profit publisher, in a marketing/communications role. Before one of our monthly meetings, with a large group that included my boss, the super boss and a number other higher-level colleagues, we were warned that the boss’ boss was not in a good place, so prepare your notes and keep your head down.
As the meeting began to get heated, I suddenly had an idea that I very much wanted to share. But I felt paralyzed.I’d never spoken more than two or three words in this meeting previously; it was a place where I felt my voice was not welcome,where management were the people in the know, where other people’s suggestions were shot down fairly aggressively on the regular, and where I was expected to just show up and take notes.
Finally, there was a pause in conversation long enough for me to say something. Even though I could hear my heart beating out of my chest and my voice was shaky and seemed far away, I managed to stammer out my idea. My colleagues’ faces softened and they asked me a few more questions to clarify, which I answered much more confidently, but took my action points down on my legal pad with a shaky hand.
I will always remember this meeting as it was a real turning point in my career – this is the story of how I found my voice.
Twenty years later…
Fast forward twenty (or so) years later, and I found myself in line for lunch, at last year’s Society for Scholarly Publishing (SSP) Fall Seminar. I overheard the woman behind me mention something about The Scholarly Kitchen (TSK), and how informative it is but how it could do so much more for students and people new to scholarly publishing. I’d been thinking along the same lines, so (this time without hesitation!), I turned around to introduce myself and to second her observation. Jasmine Wallace, Peer Review Manager at the American Society for Microbiology, and I then got to talking about what it’s like being a newcomer in the scholarly publishing industry, how difficult it can be to “find your way,” and the lack of resources to help. Jasmine specifically mentioned reading TSK regularly, and how it had been challenging for her, when she first started out, to fully understand the topics discussed, as they are often written for an audience that already understands all the nuances.
I agreed with Jasmine wholeheartedly on these points. Just as it took me so long to speak up during those monthly meetings in my 20s, there are likely many TSK readers out there who would like to post a comment or question. But they don’t, either because they don’t feel welcome, or they are just too intimidated. If you’ve been reading TSK for even just a few years, no doubt you’ve witnessed some strong interchanges in the comments, more than most people would care to face.
A call to action and a few ideas
So, how does TSK evolve into a place where younger colleagues can engage, newer people to the industry can learn, and more diverse opinions are welcome? This is the call to action I’d like to make specifically to the TSK Chefs: please don’t forget that your audience includes a breadth of people across the industry, many whom are just starting out, or are in the earlier stages of their career. If we can provide ways for these people to better understand what you are writing about, and welcome their questions and feedback, I believe that would go a long way. In other words, what can Chefs to do make TSK a more comfortable place for all of us “non-experts” to do more than show up and take notes, so to speak?
I am reminded here of Alison Mudditt’s recent post “Breaking the Silence: the #MeToo Moment in Scholarly Communication” where she specifically calls on men to:
Create space for and amplify women’s voices at work – sit back in meetings and let a woman ask the first question. If a woman is being ignored or interrupted, speak up to support her and create space.
I believe TSK can take on its own version of this as well: empower the new and underrepresented voices in the vast readership of TSK to ask questions, share their opinions and start to try out their own voices.
As noted on TSK’s “About” page, while the mission of the SSP is “[t]o advance scholarly publishing and communication, and the professional development of its members through education, collaboration, and networking,” TSK‘s aim is:“to help fulfill this mission by bringing together differing opinions, commentary, and ideas, and presenting them openly.”
With this aim in mind, and in the spirit of looking forward to TSK’s next decade, here are a few other ideas I’d like to throw out:
- Engage early-career editors – to review pending posts and identify which references need more explaining, which terms need defining, where hyperlinks would be useful, etc. And then perhaps all of this could be wrapped up in a blog post sidebar, or “101” abstract of some sort.
- Sign on more line Chefs – (HT to Jasmine) to write their own blog post and/or work with an existing Chef to co-author a blog post. See also David’s anniversary post encouraging more writers (guest and regular).
- Mentor/mentee coverage — interview new mentor/mentee pairs from SSP’s Mentorship Program – as discussed by SSP President-elect Adrian Stanley here – or invite them to co-author blog posts.
- Survey readers – create an open survey where TSK readers communicate which topics they’d like to learn more about or hear the Chefs’ opinions on. Ideally, the results of this would be accessible via the TSK website.
Reach out to The Scholarly Kitchen
Most importantly, I’d like to wrap this post up with a call to all the thousands of TSK readers who do not consider themselves experts but would like to be a part of the conversation: let TSK know what you think. Do any of these ideas work? Do you have any other suggestions or ideas of your own? Please add your thoughts in the comments section — and watch out for The Scholarly Kitchen‘s 10th Anniversary survey, which is launching tomorrow (March 2)!
And remember, the next generation of TSK Chefs are among you. Now’s the time to start finding your voices…so please feel free to contact firstname.lastname@example.org or to reach out to any of the Chefs individually. They’d love to hear from you.