Executive Director, CrossRef
First, tell us a bit about yourself (hometown, current locale, family, hobbies, community involvement?).
I grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia and currently live in Oxford, England with my wife and three kids. Before Oxford we were in the US in the Boston area and London before that. We love Oxford although I’m still learning about the intricacies of buying rounds in pubs (like when you get a half you pour it into your pint glass—it’s not manly to drink a half pint). Never having been interested in soccer, I find myself enjoying coaching both my sons’ teams and acquiring lots of new skills.
Describe some of your responsibilities, and how you or your organization fit into the scholarly communications web.
I’ve been Executive Director of CrossRef since its founding 10 years ago and it’s been a fantastic experience at the cutting edge of developments in scholarly publishing. As a non-profit association of publishers of all types—commercial, society, Open Access, large, tiny—CrossRef’s mission is to improve scholarly communications by doing collectively those things that publishers can’t do individually. Our initial service was to enable persistent scholarly journal reference linking using DOIs (Digital Object Identifiers). We’ve moved on to conference proceedings, books, book chapters, reference works, images, technical reports and working papers and have registered more than 43 million items. Each month users click CrossRef DOIs more than 25 million times. In 2008 we launched CrossCheck—a plagiarism detection service run on iParadigms’ iThenticate service to help publishers ensure they publish high quality, original content. In early 2011 we plan to launch CrossMark, a logo with associated metadata that will both highlight the publisher version of record and give the user information on the current status of the document.
As Executive Director I do a little bit of everything from strategic planning, reviewing applications for membership and managing a team of 15 people to buying light bulbs for the Oxford office.
What career path led to your current position?
After teaching English in Singapore and traveling around Asia my future wife and I found ourselves in London. I decided to get a job in publishing since the alternative was being a lawyer (I come from a family of lawyers). My break came when I was a temp secretary at WB Saunders, part of Harcourt Brace Jovanovich as it was then, and a job in Sales and Marketing as Exhibitions Coordinator opened up (nobody lasted long in the position!). I quickly moved on to an Assistant Editor position in the Academic Press division and started to get interested in online stuff. Another lucky break got me into the newly formed Academic Press Electronic Publishing Department. Chris Gibson, who was heading up the new department, saw me reading the recently launched Wired magazine at my desk during lunch and came in for a chat. Two days later I got an offer to be an Electronic Publishing Coordinator, which got me involved in web publishing, Digital Object Identifiers and DOI-X, the project that lead to CrossRef. I was in the right place at the right time when CrossRef got started and got the job as Executive Director because no one new if the whole thing would work of not and so I don’t think anyone else wanted the job!
Where do you see scholarly communications heading, and what new directions interest you most?
Everyone involved in any aspect of scholarly communications is aware of the profound changes that are going on – it’s endlessly discussed at industry conferences and on blogs. Scholarly publishing has always been changing but the changes were measured in decades. Since the advent of the World Wide Web, and particularly the first Mosaic and Netscape browsers and the explosion of the web, the pace of change has accelerated and shows no sign of slowing down.
A very interesting thing to watch is how companies, services and technology from outside the industry have driven developments in scholarly communications and publishing. Google is a perfect example—the main Google search engine, Google Scholar, Google Books (both the massive scanning going on in libraries and books licensed from publishers) and now Google Editions have turned things on their heads. In addition there many niche players in our own industry like Cite-U-Like, Connotea, Zotero, Mendeley and Deep Dyve who are experimenting both in terms of new business models and in changing how research is done.
A very interesting issue for me is how publishers cut through the hype surrounding new online services and technology and apply what’s best about them in their own content and services without losing site of the values that make them unique. Verification and trust are just as important now as they have always been but have to adapt to the online world.
What are some of the surprises/obstacles that you’ve encountered during your career?
I’ve been surprised at how much can be accomplished through collaboration between competing publishers. CrossRef’s founding and current success is a testament to enlightened self-interest by publishers.
I’ve also been surprised and disappointed at how change can be blocked by the inertial force of the current way of doing things. It’s a constant battle to push for change.
It’s always hard to keep work life and personal life in balance but a number of years ago someone whose son was going off to college said “You’ll have more time for your career and less time with your children than you think.”
What advice would you give to people interested in a career in scholarly communications? What new roles or opportunities do you see emerging in the field?
Scholarly communications is a great field to work in. The people are smart and interesting and it’s a very broad field made up of all types of organizations from big international conglomerates to tiny societies who publish a journal or two. There is no standard career path. I would say be open to change, pay attention to what’s going on around you and talk to people.
Profiled October 2010