This is the third post in a new series of perspectives from some of Publishing’s leaders across the non-profit and profit sectors of our industry. How did these leaders get into publishing? What excites them? What is their vision for the future of publishing, and indeed for the business and careers of all those working at their organization? We rarely gain these insights so we are excited to give voice to some of the key leaders in the academic publishing world.
Today, we talk to Jay Flynn. Jay is Executive Vice President & General Manager, Research at Wiley.
What was your route into publishing? Could you tell our readers a little about what drives you as a leader of Wiley?
To understand my route into publishing we should really go back to the beginning. I was born in Dayton, Ohio. My aunt ran the human resources department for a company called Mead Central Data. They had two telnet services you may have heard of, LEXIS and NEXIS, that were launched in the 1970s as some of the first computer-based research networks in the world. My aunt would get me into the building, and I would type queries into a yellow-screen terminal to help write my sixth-grade term papers. I was always going to the library. I was on a first-name basis with the librarians who worked the reference desk and would nerd out on the microfiche archives. Yes, I was that kid.
From the beginning, my career was centered around the digital transformation of research materials. In 1997, I joined Engineering Information (later acquired by Elsevier) as their salesperson/product manager for German-speaking Europe. Our task was to put the Compendex database, which was distributed to libraries on CD-ROM and on tape, onto the early version of the web. I was fascinated by the challenge, as it built on experiences I had in grad school, using online search tools like the Research Libraries Information Network (RLIN) and Eureka. In the course of two short years, I was introduced to a landscape that still informs my work today: product management, business model shifts, and the three-way relationship between publisher, the buyer (libraries) and the end user (researchers). Then, as now, disruption unlocked tremendous innovation and transformed workflows.
I’ve been with Wiley now for over 12 years, but before that I also led teams at Elsevier, Cengage, and Wolters Kluwer. Right now, I lead Wiley’s Research business unit, a global team of over 2,000 people.
As a team, we’re driven by three main priorities: driving the transition to open access, both through our extensive gold and hybrid journal portfolio and through our new Partner Solutions division, which delivers innovation in research communication workflows and helps build a more inclusive and equitable research ecosystem.
Publishing is a powerful force. Throughout human history, it has quite literally revolutionized societies. What gets me out of bed every day and energized about work is that what we do matters to our present and our future.
As a leader in academic publishing, what most excites you right now?
The transition to open access (OA) and open science is much more than just a business model change, and when I think about the implications of this paradigm shift, I get excited. Like a lot of established publishers, our introduction of open access journals a decade or so ago got us thinking about the author in a new way. We started to view the author as our customer at a more profound level, thinking about how to improve their publishing experience. Before OA, I think it’s fair to say we were more focused on the content itself and its utility to the subscribing customer. Both approaches drive value to the research ecosystem, but for me personally this shift to focusing on the author was a breakthrough moment. Once you start thinking about improving the submission experience, it leads you to examine the researcher’s full workflow – her data challenges, funding challenges, and her need for career development and recognition, etc.
Wiley, and our industry more broadly, is full of extremely smart people, working on some tough problems. How do we solve for reproducibility? How do we ensure research integrity? How do we use technology and data to their fullest potential to expand the concept of the scholarly record? These are big, complex issues that we’re tackling along with our partners and other stakeholders in the industry, and that motivates me, daily.
At our core, we are a knowledge company that has served seekers of knowledge for over 215 years. When there’s so much information out there and we’re seeing systemic challenges to what constitutes truth or fact, the role that academic publishers play will only be more critical. It’s a responsibility that I know everyone in the industry takes to heart.
How is Wiley positioned to serve the next generation of students, researchers and professionals?
First, let’s talk about researchers. In this industry, when researchers succeed, we all win. But there are structural biases built into who becomes a researcher, what research gets funded and conducted, who gets to write about it, who decides whether it is of merit, and who gets to discover it. Early career researchers have to navigate a hierarchical, tradition-bound system, and research publishers are a non-trivial part of this dynamic. So we have to own our historic role in shaping what the academy and the academic reward system look like. But that also means we are uniquely able to – and have a clear responsibility to – explore ways to identify and overcome these structural biases. I’m convinced we can do this, and at the same time advance scientific discovery through the development of more open, equitable, and future-fit publishing practices. We engage regularly with early career researchers to ensure we understand and can respond to their specific needs, and we try to keep their success top of mind in everything we do.
Wiley also partner with educators and institutions across the globe to offer learner-centric, engaging and accessible ways to teach new skills. More than a million learners have benefited from our educational courseware, and we support over 800 degree programs through our partnerships with 70 non-profit institutional customers.
Additionally, we are focused on shaping workforces. To give a couple examples, our fast-growing talent development service Wiley Edge helps the world’s leading corporations solve for the ongoing shortage of skilled technology talent with an innovative ‘Hire-Train-Deploy’ model. We source, hire, and train college graduates in technology skill sets employers need and then place them into jobs. Meanwhile, Wiley Beyond helps organizations to identify and close critical skills gaps and improve employee recruitment, retention and development efforts through online education.
Through these many touchpoints, Wiley is focused on powering the knowledge ecosystem and supporting the next generation.
What do you anticipate the major challenges will be for Wiley, and indeed the publishing industry, over the next five years?
Top of mind for me is research integrity. It is the backbone of scholarly publishing, and publishers play a pivotal role in its delivery. This is increasingly challenging as we see more frequent and larger-scale systemic manipulation of the publishing process through paper mills, peer review manipulation, and other sophisticated tactics that undermine trust in research.
Ensuring the integrity of the academic record is a major and ongoing challenge for the entire industry. We’re committed to solving this and to collaborating to address the challenge in a systemic way.
Another difficulty to overcome is the fragmented nature of open access policies. This adds to the complexity already faced by all participants in the scholarly ecosystem. These policy conversations are important, and we will always support our authors in compliance. However, it does create a patchwork effect that introduces friction into the research publishing process.
There are also global equity issues – for example, in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), where funding is more challenging. We know that funding is a major hurdle for many scholars so we support initiatives like Research4Life, which provides APC discounts and waivers for authors in LMICs. We’re committed to advancing equity and there is much more to do on that front.
What does open access / public access mean for your business?
The future is open. It must be. Access to high-quality information can really change lives so we’ve committed to leading in open access for more than a decade.
In fact, Wiley was one of the first publishers to sign a major transformative agreement. Today, we have more than 60 agreements in 23 countries that support research access and publishing across more than 2,200 institutions, and even more will go into effect this year, including in Portugal, Greece and the U.S.
But moving a centuries-old industry from subscription publishing to open access is no small undertaking. Organizations need to have both the infrastructure and resources to make the transition. Tactically, this presents a bunch of challenges.
Over the past few years, we’ve put together a dream team of subject matter experts, solutions and services from the industry to guide our partners through the transition. Last October, we launched a new division called Wiley Partner Solutions through which we serve associations, scientific publishers, societies, institutions, funders and corporations as they transform their business strategies and publishing processes in the open research era.
We are the world’s number one society publisher, and with the leading publishing platform, Literatum, in our portfolio, we have the expertise, knowledge, and global network to deliver on scholarly and academic publishing needs at scale.
What publishing innovations are you most proud of?
It might be recency bias but I’m really proud of our new Partner Solutions division and excited for its future. It’s a recently launched effort but we’ve hit the ground running with many important projects and I see a strong pipeline that will help us move the industry forward. We designed Partner Solutions to be an innovation engine, so it’s an enterprise that will help us generate new ideas and fresh solutions in the years to come.
What is the future of hybrid/remote working at Wiley?
Wiley colleagues have demonstrated their resilience over the past three years, starting with adapting to a fully remote environment at the start of the pandemic, followed by the gradual reopening of our offices, and now shifting to a truly hybrid model. Our office-based colleagues will begin working in office at least two days a week starting in March while we preserve the flexibility we all value. We will continue to balance the needs of the company against the needs and preferences of our colleagues as both are critically important.
What do the next generation of academic publishing jobs look like to you?
The talent that I see coming up in the next generation excites me. We know that many folks entering the workforce now are digital natives, they care deeply about equity and inclusivity and are focused on addressing real-world problems. That’s a potent combination!
Because we’re using technology in new and innovative ways, I believe the next generation of academic publishing jobs will look different and be more dynamic than ever before. Jobs will need to combine skillsets in new ways to reflect the growing complexity of our world.
My advice to anyone considering a career in publishing would be to follow your passion. We need more people who care deeply about issues of equity. We need people who can work across traditional disciplinary boundaries. We need brilliant engineers and data scientists and creative thinkers who will help bring science to life. That’s our future – and it’s bright!
2 Thoughts on "Chefs de Cuisine: Perspectives from Publishing’s Top Table — Jay Flynn"
> We started to view the author as our customer at a more profound level, thinking about how to improve their publishing experience.
As a twenty-first century researcher, I am encouraged by this Jay Flynn interview.