Earlier this month we heard from a group of Society for Scholarly Publishing (SSP) committee members and Co-Chairs about which organizations they volunteer for, and why. Today, it’s the Chefs’ turn to answer the same question, ahead of the Getting Involved luncheon at next week’s Annual Meeting. If you’re attending the conference, we warmly invite you to attend and hear about all the great volunteer opportunities for SSP members in 2022-23. If you’re not, and are interested in learning more, please feel free to add your comments and questions below or email SSP directly. And if you’re already an SSP volunteer (past or present), thank you SO much!
Tim Vines: At some deep level, I think I’m channeling my parents, as they were always quick to step forward when worthwhile things needed to be done. I also find it hard to walk away from something that’s of benefit to others (and myself), thinking “I’ll just leave that for someone else to sort out” – it seems somehow antisocial. With respect to volunteering for The Scholarly Kitchen, I actually hardly see it as volunteer work: there’s lots of important ideas out there that deserve attention, and it’s very rewarding to make those into (semi-) coherent posts and have them read by a large swathe of the community. Don’t tell anyone on the Kitchen this – they may start charging me – but I think I get more out of it than they do!
Angela Cochran: I am a bit of a volunteering junkie, probably because I remember my mom volunteering a lot when I was a kid. I always encourage people to volunteer for something, anything, if they are in a role in which they manage volunteers. There is nothing like being a volunteer to learn how volunteers should be treated. I have had great experiences and challenging experiences.
During mentoring discussions, I also advise people to volunteer for roles that are outside of their current skill set. Where else can you get experience with new things—marketing, communications, blogging, podcasts, finance — without having to spend a dime on formal training? While sometimes we may want to volunteer to share our current skills with a cause we enjoy, we should also seek out volunteer opportunities to expand our skills.
And, of course, networking is a great reason to volunteer.
I currently volunteer for SSP and the Council of Science Editors — two organizations that feel like home to me and have given me so many opportunities. I also volunteer in activities my kids belong to. I have been a Girl Scout leader for eight years and have built relationships with a great group of girls and their families. Now that I have teenagers, volunteering to help with theater performances or softball activities means I get to know the families of the teens they are friends with (sneaky, right?).
One of the most fulfilling volunteer roles I have had was with the American Cancer Society Relay for Life event in my hometown. I served as mission chair, survivor and caregiver chair, communications and social media chair—some of those at the same time. Not only did I learn a whole lot working these events, but I met some of the best people I will ever know.
There are several kinds of volunteering for me. I always say that the professional volunteering helps my career, the parent volunteering keeps me sane, and the passion volunteering feeds my soul. I am fortunate to have the ability and support to take on these opportunities.
Lettie Conrad: For me, whether acting locally or globally, volunteering is part of the natural give-and-take of being a member of any community. I believe that contributing my talents and time to my communities, both personal and professional, is part of being a positive and productive citizen. These interactions remind me of the world’s diversity of human experiences and perspectives, getting me out of my own head and tuning my compassionate instruments to care for those around me.
When it comes to our scholarly publishing community, I have volunteered in NISO working groups (e.g., the ODI), SSP and ALPSP committees (e.g., mentoring and programming), and various roundtables, panels, and other such events. In my independent research ecosystem, I currently serve on the Publications Committee for ASIS&T and have served on doctoral student committees, as well as being a peer reviewer for various publications.
Here at home, I have volunteered for WriteGirl LA and will soon be joining the volunteers for Planned Parenthood CA Central Coast. I participate in local environmental cleanup efforts as well as our homeowner’s association. Being an active member of my various communities is fulfilling on many levels!
Rick Anderson: I don’t belong to very many organizations, but I do usually volunteer to help with those to which I belong. That definitely includes SSP (in which I’ve served in a variety of capacities, including committee member, committee co-chair, and president). I also serve as a committee member in the Association of Research Libraries. In the past I’ve served in similar capacities in NASIG, and as a committee member in the American Library Association, though I’m not currently a member of that organization. I also currently serve as a member of the editorial board of Insights, the journal of UKSG, and over the years I’ve served on many other editorial boards, as well as on various publishers’ and service providers’ library advisory boards. (Currently these include the boards of Oxford University Press, JSTOR, and Taylor & Francis, among others.)
At the organizational level – in my role as a committee member or officer – my feeling is that, if it’s worthwhile to be a member of an organization, then it’s worth contributing actively to the organization’s success. At the more general level (in my role as an advisor or board member or editor), my goal in volunteering is simply to do my small part in helping to improve the scholarly communication ecosystem – to make it function better overall by helping its individual components to function better. That seems to me like kind of a boring answer, but it’s the best one I’ve got!
Todd Carpenter: As the Director of a non-profit organization that is really driven by the work of volunteers, it would be wrong of me to not contribute my time back to the community. I do this because it is the right thing to do, but also because it benefits me professionally and personally.
I care deeply about the success of libraries, and as such have been a leader in the foundation that supports my local community library system. We’ve raised resources for projects large and small at the library, including supporting the creation of two innovative Storyville centers — a play-and-learn center designed to promote early literacy and school readiness skills — in branch libraries.
Professionally, I serve the community in a variety of roles. I’ve been recently elected by the Board of FORCE11 to serve as the new President of that group. I’ve always been supportive of organizations that cross communities, and I’ve felt that FORCE11 has always done this effectively. I’ve agreed to serve in a leadership role to help re-energize it as it moves into its second decade. I was just elected to serve the book trade on the Board of the Book Industry Study Group, which plays an important role in supporting the trade book community and its supply chain to navigate effective distribution, sales, and management of published content. I serve on several editorial boards and contributed articles (such as posts on The Scholarly Kitchen), which give me an opportunity to stay connected with research and thought leadership in our community. There’s about a dozen other ways that I have served (and continue to serve) the community in a variety of capacities, far too many to list or describe.
Volunteering for me has been a great way to meet people and build friendships in the community, to be connected to work happening outside my own organization, and to give back to a community that has provided me with so much. To each of you reading this, I cannot encourage you more to step up and volunteer in whatever way you can, or for whatever organization you see is a best fit for you. If you don’t know where to start… I have some ideas!
Dianndra Roberts: I am currently the co-Chair of the ISMTE DEI Advisory Council, I took up this appointment in 2021. I’ve really enjoyed working with other publishing professionals who want to see a change across the industry, and I’ve had some great opportunities to meet amazing people and speak publicly for equity, inclusion, and allyship. I am also a mentor for The Catalyst Collective, a London-based mentoring program for Black girls aged 15-17, who are matched with mentors in a field that they are interested in and who also look like them. I thought it was really important to pay it forward with my experience and share what I’ve learned along the way in what has, at times, been a difficult journey due to misogynoir. There wasn’t a program like this when I was in school and it’s so valuable, I really do encourage Black women professionals to share their time with the program. Within my workplace I founded the African and Caribbean Forum for staff of African and/or Caribbean heritage and allies. I was compelled for us to have a space where we are able to share our thoughts and concerns with each other, and to raise awareness of issues that are affecting the community. Founding this group has been invaluable for me and my colleagues: we have made structural changes within the organization and strengthened allyship with our peers. My most recent voluntary role is as The Scholarly Kitchen’s DEIA Associate Editor, which is such an honor. I’m still in the early stages of the role but I have already made some valuable connections and had worthwhile discussions to implement change within scholarly publishing. I believe it’s incredibly important to pay it forward, especially if you are finding yourself in opportunities with a platform. Use it to support those around you and those who are coming up behind you.
Haseeb Md Irfanullah: Back in 2018, I left my 9-to-5 job to become an independent consultant. Over the past three years (with little help from the pandemic), I’ve divided my profession engagements into three parts: two for paid consultancies and one for voluntary work.
Although I volunteer for a number of organizations in Bangladesh and abroad, research and scholarly publishing are two major areas. I am closely involved with INASP, SSP, and ALPSP in several capacities, along with occasional engagements with many others. I see three major types of voluntary engagements, under which my motivations can be broadly grouped.
1) Committees/Boards/Working Groups (e.g., INASP, SSP, ALPSP, and journal editorial boards): These are often longer-term involvements allowing me to learn how organizations function the way they function, and why. I also get chance to share my ideas and thoughts based on my experiences with other organizations. Such engagements indeed expand my network and reach, but most importantly, I love to see myself being part of an organization’s strategic transformation.
2) Mentorship (e.g., INASP, Gobeshona, SSP, and ACU): My motivation for my 14-years’ mentoring journey is quite simple: I am extremely privileged to be mentored by some great minds, so I must pay back to society. And also, the experience and understanding I gather as I go along would be wasted, if I don’t share it with early career professionals. While doing so, I also learn a lot from our youth — what motivates them, how they perceive their career, how they plan to overcome dynamic challenges they face. Above all, mentoring allows me to see individuals metamorph — a fascinating experience indeed.
3) Discussions/Talks/Debates (e.g., R2R Conference and various organizations): Such involvements help me to think of a wide range of topics in discussion ― be it if research can become a global enterprise, links between ethics and sustainable development, future of society journals, if preprints will replace journals, or meaning of resilience in publishing ― which are often followed by blog posts. Together, they are amazingly rewarding. This subsequently also creates new networks, offers more engagement with new stakeholders, thus more opportunities to influence others for impact.
I, however, try to be cautious while offering my voluntary services to individuals or organizations, so that I am not misunderstood or exploited — I have seen that happening many a times.
Judy Luther: Having been active in SSP in a variety of roles, I currently serve as a Chef in The Scholarly Kitchen. I am also on the NISO Seamless Access Committee, and I serve on the Editorial Board for The Charleston Advisor. I have enjoyed being active professionally throughout my career. Volunteering is a great way to develop additional skills and learn from those with different experience and perspectives. Whether I am performing a task or leading an initiative, the activity provides insights into the internal workings of an organization and how all the parts come together in a coherent whole. Volunteering has provided the opportunity to engage in areas that matter to me. During this period of increased remote work, serving on a committee is a great way to be engaged in developments within our profession. It also serves as an active complement to connections on LinkedIn. SSP is a well-run organization with exceptional leadership and support.
Alice Meadows: LIke several of my fellow Chefs, I learned about volunteering from my parents, both of whom were great role models in that respect. So for many years, like them, I volunteered in my home community as a parent — on the Parent Teacher Association, designing programs for the school plays, contributing to bake sales, and so on. It was only when I joined SSP in around 2008 that I started to volunteer professionally, initially on the Marketing Committee and (as a liaison) on the Annual Meeting Program Committee. Both were (and still are!) great introductions to SSP’s work and, again, to echo many of the other contributors, I immediately got hooked on volunteering in my work community, as well as my home one.
There is really so much to love about professional volunteering! First and foremost, I’ve got to meet so many smart and interesting people, from such a variety of organizations and backgrounds and with such a diverse range of perspectives. Better still, many of them have become real friends over the years — people who I can lean on, learn from, and (hopefully) also be there for.
The learning element is another key benefit of volunteering. As others have noted, it’s a great (and low-risk) way to expand your skills. While it’s always rewarding to use your existing skills to help support your community, it’s also great to have the chance to learn some new ones, especially if you’re looking to switch jobs — or even careers! This includes leadership opportunities, which aren’t always available to us in our jobs, but which are open to all volunteers.
I’m lucky that volunteering allows me to work on the things that I’m passionate about both personally and professionally, in particular, diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (through the SSP Board and DEI Committee, as well as C4DISC); and open research, especially infrastructure (for example, on the DataCIte Community Engagement Steering Group). And I also get to write about these things — and more! — as a volunteer Chef on The Scholarly Kitchen!
We’d love to hear which organizations you volunteer for and why, so please share your experiences in the comments below.