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Patricia K (Patty) Baskin

Executive Editor, Neurology® Journal

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

As a child, I lived in Eastern Washington in a beautiful creek-carved canyon near Lake Roosevelt and five miles from a small town (population 268). In that remote and quiet setting, I grew up loving books and learning and was encouraged by my parents and teachers to attend college, a pathway a bit unusual among the farmers and timber industry families in the community. I graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a BS degree in Biology/Physiology and then stayed to earn an MS in Genetics.

Currently, I am the Executive Editor of the four Neurology journals owned by the American Academy of Neurology. Our Editorial Office is located at the Academy headquarters, which is located in Minneapolis, MN. I live in Seattle with my husband (a faculty member at the University of Washington Medical School) in Seattle and have commuted to Minneapolis weekly for 12 years, during which time Neurology has launched three new journals and two sub-specialty websites, redesigned the journals twice, and added numerous innovations such as publishing short-format articles in print with full-length articles online, infographics, and a successful podcast program.

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

The Neurology journals are official publications of the American Academy of Neurology, which serves neurologists worldwide in all subspecialties. The main Journal has been published for 68 years and has been an early adopter of online publishing and new online features as they became available. As the Executive Editor of the Journals, I partner with the Editor-in-Chief to promote the Journal’s vision and mission by helping define the Journal’s editorial policies, production processes, and new initiatives that make the Journal more relevant for practicing neurologists. I represent the EIC in communications with the society, the publisher (Wolters Kluwer Health), the online publisher (HighWire Press), and the Associate Editors and Editorial Board. My position includes strategic planning, analyzing publishing trends, monitoring the competitive environment, and recommending future innovations for the journals. I am expected to help develop and to uphold journal policies and to resolve scientific integrity issues. I manage a multifaceted team of thirteen staff members responsible for all aspects of journal publication.

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

After I received my MS at Berkeley and my husband continued in a PhD program, I worked as a research associate in various science research labs and also took on some editing work for colleagues while he finished the program. I found editing to be the most interesting of these and a few years later, I completed a graduate certificate program in technical writing and editing at the University of Washington, where I became excited about publication management. Just as the program ended, a professor at the university took on the editorship of a genetics journal and I was hired as the associate managing editor. That position began my career in journal management. Since that time, I have served several other journals, putting peer review systems in place, determining production pathways, taking journals online, doing strategic planning, teambuilding, and launching new journals. So I am one of those people who came in by what I call the ‘back door,’ from a science background rather than with a goal of working in publishing. I’ve found there are a number of advantages of having a science background: A degree in science provides credibility and ease of communication among academic editors and authors, I can understand the perspectives of the authors and editors, and I have a degree of understanding of the academic culture of publishing and the authors’ goals.

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

I have had several mentors who influenced my career and shaped my approach to managing publications and the teams that put them together. All of these mentors encouraged me to continuously question traditional ways of publishing, to think innovatively, and be open to all possibilities. To mention one: My first Editor at Neurology was Dr. John Noseworthy, a neurologist who later became the visionary President & CEO of the Mayo Clinic system. He questioned the ‘traditionally accepted’ definitions of authorship on papers, which we believed did not sufficiently provide transparency; we subsequently modified our author criteria in ways that made author contributions more transparent.

What websites and organizations do you find most valuable for your career development?

My favorite website, of course, is the Scholarly Kitchen. I try to take advantage of attending and networking at professional meetings to learn everything I can about what is going on in the publishing world and how other society journals or publishing organizations are responding. I’ve attended the SSP meeting regularly (missing only a few meetings) since 2000 and have attended the Council of Science Editors meeting for 25 consecutive years. Each time, I learn something new that helps me learn more about or to anticipate some publishing issue better. I also attend the HighWire Press meetings (twice per year), where innovative options inspire me and keep me abreast of possibilities for the future of publishing. I also attend ISMTE, MPIP, CMSS, and occasionally other meetings as time allows. One of the most satisfying activities I do is volunteering within these communities; teaching short courses or workshops, heading committees, or planning events are activities that help keep me abreast with what is going on in publishing, and they provide a wonderful opportunity to create an amazing network of long-lasting friends.

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

Be open to innovation and change. Technology, ways of accessing information by readers, global connections, and publishing culture will continue to change the face of publishing –quickly – in the future. Keep abreast of issues in publishing by creating and continuing to expand your network. Attend professional meetings and look for opportunities to gain more responsibility, build leadership skills, and find meaningful ways to contribute. Expanding your network will result in your gaining expertise and reaching your career goals – which may change along with the overall changes in providing scientific information to readers. Maintain a positive attitude toward change and an eagerness to learn however the scholarly publishing world advances. Strive to embrace change and make your publication a leader and example for others. Above all, maintain a passion for creating excellence in whatever you publish, not only in content but in use of technological innovations, scientific integrity, and transparency of contributions.