In October, Lettie Conrad was named North American Editor of Learned Publishing, a major international journal published by Wiley on behalf of the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers and in collaboration with the Society for Scholarly Publishing (SSP). The journal is free for ALPSP and SSP members.
Conrad is a publishing and product development consultant and a member of SSP, and she was kind enough to talk to us about her career background, her new position at Learned Publishing, and her thoughts on the future of scholarly publishing.
What is your scholarly publishing background?
I began with publishing political analysis for some incredibly talented public policy experts in a think tank in Washington D.C., just shortly after 9/11. There, I was able to learn the publishing lifecycle end-to-end, from concept development to editorial curation to production, which was also my first introduction to online publishing. From there, I moved back home to California and spent an absolutely incredible 10 years at SAGE Publishing. Starting out in the trenches of online production, I then had the amazing luck to be part of SAGE’s first product management team, developing both innovative processes and award-winning online products. It was there that my passion was sparked for understanding the end-user information journey at all levels of the academic process and leveraging agile methods for driving change to improve the researcher experience.
What made you interested in the position of North American Editor of Learned Publishing?
Since I joined the editorial board of Learned Publishing a few years ago, I’ve had fun working with the super smart and kind people on the board and across our community. I really enjoy thinking about our industry from the diverse perspectives of our authors, reviewers, and board members. And I’ve enjoyed bringing in some different perspectives from information science scholars, librarians, technologists, UX designers, etc. Really, it just goes to the heart of what I enjoy about publishing, working every day with language, crafting expert writing to convey complex ideas and inspire thinking. I’ve always been a bit of a publishing geek—I used to make my own magazines out of construction papers as a child—so I was born for this role!
Would you describe a bit of your vision for the publication?
Ultimately, I think the vision of the journal needs to be set by directors and members of ALPSP and SSP, so that we continue to contribute to the mission of our industry organizations and serve the needs of our global community. In addition, it is important to me to ensure that Learned Publishing is a welcoming forum for dialogue and deeper understanding of the diverse issues facing today’s scholarly publishing and communication professionals. That includes things like ensuring robust and fair peer review, with recognition for everyone who comes together to deliver this journal. That includes encouraging original research and review articles from all constituencies in our ecosystem, from librarians and information scientists, standards bodies and technology providers, as well as editorial leadership of publishing houses.
What do you hope to accomplish in your role as editor?
I look forward to bringing new perspectives on innovation and digital publishing, drawing on my experience with product development and the researcher experience. I hope to welcome in new voices from across the wider community and encourage submissions from anyone with a vested interest in safeguarding the values of academic research and its dissemination. And, selfishly, I look forward to learning more about the editorial craft from a master in the field, our Editor in Chief, Pippa Smart!
What makes you excited about the future of scholarly publishing?
The human-centered approaches coming into the workflows of information professionals are really exciting to see, from UX librarians optimizing on-campus search with the aid of usability testing to content providers employing ethnographic research to shape database architecture. New innovative ways of doing business are blossoming across our supply chain, and I find we all benefit from an open dialogue about what’s working to deliver a positive research experience for our end-users.
What makes you nervous about the future of scholarly publishing?
What’s worrying me most these days are risks to the credibility and sustainability of academic information providers, struggling to balance global demands for open, multi-channel digital dissemination. Computer-driven content curation, such as semantic recommendations for further reading, can be impressive and deliver positive research experiences, helping us make serendipitous new connections. However, they are no match for the quality assurance of human vetting and editorial exercises, for example basic fact checking is not so easily programmed. I worry that, as incoming students’ information experiences are based on platforms like Google and Facebook, information professionals will need to adapt how we establish and maintain authority within an abundance of information resources in the open web.
Give us your best sales pitch—why should someone read Learned Publishing?
Readers of Learned Publishing are not only up on the latest topics of concern to the global scholarly communication and professional publishing community; they have a deeper level of insight into the art and science of publishing. And they enjoy privileged access to rich archives of original research and analysis, explaining both the history of and current trends prevailing in today’s academic information profession.