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Jeff Lang

Assistant Director, Platform Development, American Chemical Society Publications

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

I came to the Washington D.C. area to study Computer Science at the University of Maryland, College Park, and the area quickly became my home. I returned to UMD for a Masters of Information Management. You can find me most mornings on an early Red Line Metro train headed downtown for a run around the Tidal Basin (company welcome if you want a tour).

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

I’m the Platform Manager for Journal Delivery at the American Chemical Society Publications.  I serve in the Product Manager role, helping to design and coordinate site improvements.  These include recent features like ACS ActiveView PDF (http://pubs.acs.org/page/demo/activeviewpdf.html), ACS2Go mobile web experience and ACS Editors’ Choice (http://pubs.acs.org/editorschoice/).  I get to collaborate with nearly every group across the Publications division, as they each bring their special expertise and efforts to the product development efforts.

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

This is my first job in publishing, but I’ve been working with services for scholarly authors and researchers my whole career.  I started working with Cambridge Scientific Abstracts as a software engineer on their Abstract & Index Database platform, where I got to build their first version of HTML full-text and the Illustrata deep index of tables & figures. During CSA’s merger with ProQuest, I ran the Library and User Support group, before heading up an internal start-up project called GradShare.  After that I took over as the Product Manager of RefWorks, where I oversaw the development of all new Write-N-Cite for manuscript preparation.  I’ve always loved working on innovative projects and there seems to be no shortage of those across the scholarly services industries.

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

I’ve been a daily reader of Slashdot for almost 20 years now (had a 5-digit UID, back when that was still a thing) and I still value the perspective from a community of makers and all-around nerds.  Lately I also use Feedly to keep up with blogs and product updates.  I’ve come to rely on TechCrunch for my daily updates on new workflow tools, news on startups in scholarly publishing and speculation on new Google/Apple/Facebook products.

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

Scholarly researchers love their PDFs.  I understand why – there are lots of benefits and I don’t foresee a time without PDFs anywhere along the horizon. But, considering how different this is from popular content consuming habits, it’s still a little surprising.

I can sympathize.  I love newspaper layouts.  I feel like I learn a lot just by scanning the front page and section covers.  I regularly read the Washington Post through the excellent PressReader app until the Post put an end to individual subscriptions last year.  I just haven’t found anything to love about the replacements. 

So, I guess scholarly researchers are feeling the same way.  They’re looking for a new format to fall in love with. I see it as part of my job to find it.

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

Lots of people have opinions about how to improve elements of scholarly publishing, but the people working in this field collectively demonstrate a passion for improvement that I think would really surprise the critics.  This is a vibrant community; many people make this their life’s work and their passion.  We may bicker about what to improve or how, but you won’t find a group with more at stake in the continued success of scholarly communication.  To anyone out there who feels strongly about the direction of scholarly publishing – come join us!

Watch a video interview with Jeff Lang, and other SSP members, as they answer questions about scholarly publishing.