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Michael Friedman

Senior Manager for Publishing Operations, American Meteorological Society


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

I grew up in University City, MO, in the St. Louis metropolitan area. As a kid, my heroes were the NASA astronauts (weren’t they everybody’s heroes in the late 1960s and 70s?), which sparked my interest in science. I majored in physics at Rice University and worked for Lockheed at NASA Johnson Space Center for a couple of years (one goal met!) before getting a master’s degree at UCLA in Geophysics and Space Physics. After another stint at Lockheed in northern California, I went back for a Ph.D in Atmospheric Sciences at the University of WisconsinMadison, where my dissertation involved the remote sensing of clouds and their associated radiative heating profiles. After many years in Arlington, MA, where we raised our daughter and son, I currently live in Rockport, MA, with my wife Holly, dog Houdini, and cat Captain Santa (yes, there’s a story behind the name—ask me some time!). I’m also a big soccer fan, having played in college and beyond.

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

My first scholarly publishing role was actually as a coauthor on a few manuscripts, so I got to see things from the author’s point of view. After a post-doctoral position at Oregon State University, and realizing that a traditional research/teaching position may not be the best fit for me, I applied to be a technical editor for AMS. I had always enjoyed the editing process, including helping my international colleagues with whatever writing projects they had, and thought that the job at AMS would be a good fit. It was a great decision. When I arrived at AMS in 2001, I performed technical editing duties for almost all of our technical journals, acting as the author’s advocate through the production process in ensuring adherence to AMS style, mathematical formatting consistency, agreement between figures and captions, and making sure the copyediting process didn’t change the author’s meaning. These important functions are a primary reason AMS journals are so well-respected.

The technical editing work dwindled once I became the Journals Production Coordinator, and then Journals Production Manager (a position I held for 15 years), though I continued doing some tech editing through 2014. Most recently my job title has changed as I concentrate more on special projects to keep up with the accelerating technological and larger-scale changes in academic publishing, which is important given AMS’s status as a smallish independent society publisher.

So it’s been long and unpredictable road for me that has wound from physics and astronomy, to the aerospace industry, back to academia and atmospheric science, and finally to scholarly publishing.

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

I have been blessed to have worked for the past 19 years at AMS, whose mission to advance the atmospheric and related sciences for the benefit of society is more important than ever as environmental changes continue to accelerate. I am very proud to be a part of a publications team that not only has developed and maintained the sterling reputation of AMS journals and our other publications, but contributes in an important way to the understanding of our planet as we face the challenges ahead.

As I alluded to above, my current responsibilities include journal, monograph, and book operations, especially with regard to production, evaluating and analyzing publishing technology development and implementation, managing vendor relationships, and representing AMS with external professional organizations, such as the Coalition for Publishing Data in the Earth and Space Sciences (COPDESS) and Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP), in addition to industry organizations like SSP and CSE.

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

The one pivotal moment would have to be when I decided to pursue a more publishing-oriented job instead of research or teaching. That set the course for my career at AMS as a technical editor and then managing our journals production operation. The person who hired me was Ken Heideman, our former long-time Director of Publications, who also encouraged my involvement with CSE and SSP. Both of those organizations have been crucial in my career development, particularly CSE as I served on their Board of Directors from 2013 through 2015, in addition to several other committees.

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

While I haven’t been involved with SSP quite as much as CSE, other than attending a number of Annual Meetings, the resources available here have been extremely valuable. In particular, I’d like to call out the webinars, whose breadth and quality have been consistently excellent, and The Scholarly Kitchen, which is truly an invaluable resource for keeping up with all that’s happening in our industry.

I mentioned CSE above, and I’ve found their Annual Meetings to be both stimulating and practical, which has helped with my job in innumerable ways. Vendor user group meetings have also been a valuable resource for networking with colleagues and learning more about the tools we all use.

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

One of the biggest surprises that caught me off guard was realizing after a few years that I was no longer a practicing scientist, but rather a publisher. While science was a big part of me for so long (and still is, to a certain extent), it was a very stimulating challenge to tackle the publishing world at a time when so much was changing, especially technologically. The pace of that change was also, and continues to be, a surprise.

What do you wish you knew more about?

I wish I had more time to absorb the aspects of scholarly publishing that I haven’t had much experience with, such as the business and marketing side of things. I guess it’s natural that I’ve stuck to the more technical facets of this field, but there’s certainly a lot more to this field to master!

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

Be open to whatever challenges present themselves since you can always learn something to apply to your professional journey. Don’t try to do too much at once—develop a plan for how your career could lay itself out and develop the skills to be able to that happen. But be resilient enough to handle any unexpected turns that path ends up taking. I certainly couldn’t have predicted my career path, but it’s been a rewarding one!