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Ginny Herbert

Associate Publisher of Researcher Engagement, AIP Publishing


Please tell us a bit about yourself (e.g. hometown, current locale, course of study).

I’m based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with my husband, Jake, and my dogs, Ollie and Cosmo. I studied psychology at the University of Pittsburgh and am currently pursuing my MBA at Carnegie Mellon.

While I obviously didn’t become a psychologist, my time at Pitt proved useful for a career in academic publishing because the university has such a strong research culture. I remember googling my professor’s name and a phrase from a study guide during my freshman year hoping to find an explanation of a concept I was struggling with, and instead I learned that my professor had actually discovered much of what he was teaching in our class.

That was the moment that I realized that you could spend your career creating knowledge in the same way you can spend it creating products. I still find our proximity to knowledge creation to be the most magical part of what we do.

Describe some of your current responsibilities, and what type of organization you belong to.

I’m the Associate Publisher of Researcher Engagement at AIP Publishing, the publishing arm of the American Institute of Physics. I currently manage a team of five and oversee our researcher engagement strategy and operations, which has recently translated into a lot of collaborative project work with marketing and technology colleagues.

The cross-functional collaboration aspect of my role is one of the best parts about it—I get to work with folks who have so much experience in areas where my own knowledge base is relatively shallow, so I’m constantly learning from them and having my mind blown by solutions that are business as usual in their own worlds but earth-shattering for someone like me who has always been on the publishing side.

What does a typical day in your current role look like?

There are a few constants: I start my day reviewing KPIs in PowerBI and message folks on my team with anything, particularly exciting or alarming that I see there, and—like many people—I typically have a lot of meetings and emails (the challenging part of the aforementioned collaboration!).

Beyond that, my days vary. My team is involved in several projects, so I’m often either doing project work myself or supporting folks on my team to ensure that they have what they need to move things forward. Much of my time recently has been spent doing some form of communication—giving presentations, writing updates to share with other teams, talking with folks in other departments to align on priorities, etc. There are a lot of articles out there right now about how soft skills such as adaptability, teamwork, and communication are most critical for succeeding in the modern organization, and when I think about my own “typical day,” that resonates!

What was your first scholarly publishing role? How did you get that job? What path led to your current position?

I began my career as an “administrative/editorial assistant” at the American Economic Association—I was the person who sat at the front desk greeting visitors, collecting mail, and answering the phone. My mom convinced me to apply for the job because it was walking distance from my apartment, and it’s one of the many things I’m forever thankful she pushed me to do because it started my career in an industry that I’m now so passionate about.

Since then, I’ve been at Taylor & Francis, Frontiers, and now AIPP, always in functions related to journal publishing. I’d describe my path as one part curiosity, one part effort, and one part kindness and mentorship from colleagues and community members who gave me opportunities to learn new skills, coached and encouraged me, and provided insights on the organizational strategies that go into building a successful publishing house.

If there was a pivotal moment or key person in your career development, please describe briefly.

I’ve had so many pivotal moments and influential people in my professional development—my career trajectory is very much the result of the kindness of our community. Getting involved in SSP and the Council of Science Editors and taking part in the many developmental opportunities that Taylor & Francis offered when I was there made a tangible difference in the opportunities that fell into my lap and what long-term ambitions I thought of as being within the realm of possibility.

I can’t overstate how important talking to people smarter than me has been throughout the entirety of my career. There are so many bright, thoughtful, engaged people out there, and soaking up some of that and applying it to my own thinking and decision-making has really enhanced not just my career but my life more generally.

What tools, web sites and organizations do you find most valuable for your career development?

I love the Harvard Business Review podcasts, particularly Women at Work. It shares research-based advice on common professional challenges such as how to get promoted, dealing with difficult people, accepting feedback, being persuasive, and managing upwards. Melissa Patterson, my manager, recommended HBR’s Management Tip of the Day newsletter to me, and it’s also fantastic—it provides bite-sized tips on all things management. Today’s issue is on “getting past your need for constant approval at work,” which I find all too relatable.

Beyond explicit professional advice, I think being generally informed is helpful for not just your career development but your ability to be creative in the workplace. I regularly read the New York Times and the Financial Times (the latter of which is particularly helpful as an American in scholarly publishing because it’s owned by a Japanese company and is London based, so it’s a little more international than, say, the Wall Street Journal), and I love the podcast Pivot with Scott Galloway and Kara Swisher (my partner hates it though, so your mileage may vary!). I also read the usual suspects—The Scholarly Kitchen, Journalology, The Brief, etc.—but I’ve been trying to get out of my informational silo recently, so I haven’t kept up with them as much as I did previously.

What are some of the surprises/obstacles that you’ve encountered during your career?

I’m often surprised by the extent to which I’m my own biggest obstacle. I don’t think of myself as having a confidence deficiency, and yet I can point to countless times in my career that I’ve let an opportunity pass because I assumed I wasn’t experienced, smart, senior, etc. enough—and despite knowing that I tend to do that, I *still* find myself doing it now.

What do you wish you knew more about?

Everything! If I could pick one superpower, it would be knowing everything. Within a professional context, I’m currently most interested in operational applications of AI, how acquisition decisions get made on a day-to-day level, and the inner workings of venture capital firms and how they compare to other funding organizations such as foundations and governmental institutes.

On a personal level, I am so curious about how dogs think and communicate (do dogs have regional accents?), and I’d like to learn how to build a house from the ground up. My father and grandfather were both builders, and my dad built the house I grew up in. I’m totally in awe of the knowledge and skill that takes and would love to get just a tenth of that knowledge before I hit the bucket.

What advice would you give to people interested in a career in scholarly communications?

(1) Scholarly communication is huge. Saying you’re interested in working it is like saying you’re interested in working in fashion. You can, of course, be an editor, publisher, etc., but you can also be a project manager, data scientist, salesperson, entrepreneur—the possibilities are endless. Identify what interests you, get some sense of how that translates into roles, figure out what experience you need to get those jobs, and be strategic about obtaining that experience.

(2) Be purposeful and disciplined in learning how to network and doing it. If you want a fruitful career in scholarly communication or otherwise, getting to know people in your professional community is essential. (And once you feel ingrained in the community, give back by being inclusive and inviting of new people!)