Mit Press Journals Director
First, tell us a bit about yourself (hometown, current locale, family, hobbies, community involvement?).
I grew up mostly in Nova Scotia though I spent a few years in Ottawa and England as a kid. My wife Tanya and I have been living in the US for over thirteen years now but we still think of ourselves as Canadians and we hold onto our Canadian citizenship and passports. Currently we live in Arlington, MA, just north of Cambridge, with our two young daughters Anna and Jane. I think I had some hobbies at one point in time but they seem to have been replaced with parental duties and keeping our house upright and in good order. We like to spend our vacations camping on Cape Cod and generally taking advantage of what New England has to offer in all seasons.
Describe some of your responsibilities, and how you or your organization fit into the scholarly communications web.
I’m responsible for the smooth sailing of the journals division at MIT Press from both day-to-day and strategic perspectives. In both areas I’m assisted by an exceptionally talented group of managers who keep the place humming very efficiently. Consequently, there are rarely fires to put out and I end up spending most of my time working on client relations, new journal acquisitions and strategic partnerships, and other more outward looking activities.
MIT Press’s journals division’s position in the web of scholarly communications is that of a good sized journals program for a university press. The Press’ concentration of science titles is what perhaps makes MIT a little different from other UPs, but by and large we’re very similar to most others of our size such as University of California Press or Johns Hopkins UP.
What career path led to your current position?
Like a lot of people who’ve graduated with a BA in English Lit, I knew I wanted to be involved with books somehow, but exactly how was an open question. The three pivotal points on my career path that led me to my current position were: 1) going to the NYU Summer Publishing Institute. Highly recommend this to anyone who might be thinking about breaking into publishing. 2) Getting hired as the journals marketing manager at UC Press in Berkeley. A wonderful place to work and I owe my boss there, Rebekah Darksmith, a great deal of gratitude for getting me started in publishing. 3) Getting homesick enough for the East Coast that I applied for and got the journals marketing job with MIT Press. An equally terrific place to work and I’ve been very happy to be here ever since I arrived back in 2008.
Where do you see scholarly communications heading, and what new directions interest you most?
I wish I knew. From my perch here at MIT Press, I don’t feel like I have any special insight about where things are going. Technological and economic pressures on publishing are making things so uncertain right now that trying to gauge where we’re all going to be in five years’ time seems almost pointless. Are tools like Mendeley and websites such as Scribd going to make it so astoundingly easy to share and find free versions of articles that we publish that we’re fated to follow the same path as the music industry? Or will new business models keep the not-for-profit journals world afloat as we look around for something to replace the traditional library subscription? It strikes me that the overall audience for scholarly material is small enough that we likely won’t be able to completely adopt a model that weans us from subscriptions and that other revenue streams for us will always be too weak to really make a difference. I’d love to be proved wrong on that point.
But overall, I’m optimistic. I still see university presses and not-for-profits playing a unique role and our position as a reasonable alternative to both open access and for-profit publishers will continue to have a place in the scholarly communications ecosystem.
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?
My advice would be to dive right in! For all the acute financial problems and uncertainty facing us, the university press community remains a place devoted to publishing books and journals for all the right reasons: namely, furthering scholarship and expanding the world of ideas. To break in to this world I’d definitely recommend an internship. Many of the entry level jobs at MIT Press have been filled by people who first shone as interns.
For long term career growth and security, I’d suggest becoming as knowledgeable as possible about publishing technology. The creation of new jobs at MIT Press has been almost entirely in the area of navigating publishing technology and IT matters. An entire new department, the Digital Initiatives Group, was established to take on new kinds of publishing projects and to implement internal systems that take better advantage of technology. The only new position in journals since I’ve been at MIT Press has been the Journals Technology Specialist—a position explicitly tasked with wrangling all aspects of our publishing tech. Definitely the #1 growth area for jobs at university presses.
To follow Nick Lindsay on Twitter, or to learn more about MIT Press, go to www.mitpressjournals.org.
Profiled May 2011