Professional Development in Scholarly Publishing| John Tagler
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Professional Development in Publishing: It Never Ends

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Professional Development in Publishing It Never Ends

John Tagler is Vice President of Bert Davis Executive Search, a division of Howard-Sloan Search; jtagler@bdes-ny.com.

Regardless of the business you’re in, the need for industry knowledge and continuous training is increasing at exponential rates. In the publishing world, the traditional avenues for training continue to exist, but fortunately there are many alternatives available to keep you in step with evolving and emerging areas. Also, training is no longer for junior staff. It is for everyone, at all levels.

My discussion focuses on scholarly publishing since it’s where I spent more than 40 years of my career, mostly in the STM sphere. Rapid developments are occurring in many diverse areas of the industry (e.g., technology, intellectual property, ethics, peer review, open science, pricing, online piracy, metadata, author and institutional disambiguation, predatory journals, blockchain technology, fake news, reproducibility, and access to research data). Compounding the challenge is the need to provide education for people at various stages of their careers— from beginners to those in mid-career to long-term professionals, all of whom need to keep up with changes in the publishing landscape. To achieve programming and professional development goals, this requires finding a delicate balance between serving audiences at different levels of experience and addressing critical topics in an evolving ecosystem.

Traditionally, there have been two major avenues available: internal training through an employer and self-motivated, independent education ranging from online training to degree-granting programs. Often it is most effective when an employer develops its own training or brings in third-party trainers to specifically design programs for its staff. While optimal, this can also have mixed results. I recall sitting through supposedly customized sales training sessions where we were trying to learn about selling to research libraries by using case studies about selling tractors. But at least the company deserves credit for making the effort and there usually something to be gleaned from the examples.  As the competitive market for training continues to grow, there are more customized programs for both in-person and online training that employers can obtain. Many educational publishers are jumping into this emerging market as they already have expertise in professional training, and with a bit of introspection they recognize the growing corporate need for staff development.

The second approach is to attend external training programs. Aside from degree- or certification-granting programs, this can be a bit tricky. Often the programs offered outside the publishing sphere are quite generic and may not have a great deal to offer on an individual level. During a couple of periods when librarian-publisher relations were particularly tense, I took several communications courses from prominent management organizations. While the programs were interesting and well-presented, the prospects of trying to deal with an oil spill or nuclear plant disaster or book an author on the Today Show were different communications challenges from what was common in our industry. It is all a matter of perspective.

Fortunately, professional societies in the scholarly publishing world have embraced their training and professional development roles. Societies have a long history of professional training but in the past few years the programs have expanded and diversified. The popularity of webinars has expanded access to larger audiences across a wider landscape. It’s no longer necessary to convene people in a single room, and with the economies that webinars offer, it’s possible to develop more specialized programs that are offered on a more frequent basis. A look at the SSP roster shows a variety of programs. For example, the recent session on “New Directions in Strategy, Technology and Community” addressed how publishers, librarians, and researchers can develop new approaches and technologies to meet emerging research and communication challenges. Or a forthcoming webinar, The Future of Publisher Independence in a Consolidated Scholarly Ecosystem,” shows the interconnectivity of the different players in the scholarly communication chain. An unmistakable sign of the growing international sensibility of the industry is SSP’s program at the Frankfurt Book Fair entitled “Global Excellent and Diversity Workshop,” which features representatives from Latin America, Africa, and Asia discussing success stories from their regions in the areas of scholarship, publishing, metrics, innovation, and outreach.

Numerous associations offer programs including annual conferences, seminars, webinars and workshops. The Council of Science Editors, National Federation of Advanced Information Services, International Society of Managing and Technical Editors, NASIG, and The Charleston Conference offer both hands-on training as well as issues-driven programs. The Association of STM Publishers (STM), OASPA, and ALPSP, which are European-based, offer programs in North America (some via webinar and some in person) and STM has a North American conference each spring. OASPA offers a nicely balanced mix of programs in Europe and North America. Increasingly, associations are scheduling one or two days of preconference workshops and professional development programs in advance of their annual conferences. 

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