Facing up to a new reality

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Wayne Sime discusses his hopes for the future of the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers

Tell us a little about your background and qualifications 
Having joined the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP) as interim chief executive in October 2018, I was delighted to secure the chief executive position on a permanent basis in May. 

Previously, I was director of library services for the Royal Society of Medicine. I have also worked in the NHS and financial sector. I have been a chartered librarian since 2001 and became a fellow of CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library & Information Professionals) in 2009. I have a BSc in economics from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth. 
 
What plans do you have for ALPSP? 
ALPSP has nearly 300 members, in more than 30 countries, who collectively publish more than half the world’s total active journals, as well as books, databases and other products.

But more than that, at its core ALPSP is a network of people – from a wide range of publishers and organisations, with differing ideas and plans but all sharing a common purpose – to develop and strengthen the scholarly publishing community. This diversity and independence are some of our key strengths, and I want to encourage more of our members to become involved with ALPSP, where they can help guide and inform our future.

I want ALPSP to be relevant internationally and to expand its reach. For example, we will be offering more network events and face-to-face training outside of the UK, as well as webinars and online training to ensure that our global members can participate.

I want ALPSP to focus its activities on supporting career development, especially for early-career publishers. For ALPSP to be relevant in all its activities, as it supports members as they fulfil their aspirations and progress through their careers.

ALPSP will continue to develop its evening network events, which consist of speakers addressing the ‘hottest topics’ in scholarly communications followed by a wine reception. We will also introduce a series of business lunches with key speakers that will stimulate and challenge our scholarly communications community. We want to introduce a social aspect to all our network events, in order that learning with ALPSP will be an enjoyable experience.

For ALPSP to engage widely with the leaders, funders and partner organisations from the scholarly communications community, in order that we can influence the conversation and represent our members in the best possible light.

I want ALPSP to provide a lively forum for scholarly communications, where issues can be discussed, questions raised, and knowledge shared. It aims to support and develop our scholarly community for the challenges and opportunities ahead.

I am really looking forward to seeing the ALPSP network and influence grow, and  extremely keen for more organisations to join ALPSP, and staff from each member organisation to become involved with (and benefit from) the work of ALPSP. I believe that ALPSP will need to broaden its appeal to welcome everyone from the scholarly communications community (e.g. researchers and librarians), which I believe will enrich the ALPSP offering.
  
What are the biggest issues facing your members at the moment?
Emerging technologies have enhanced publishing and at the same time made it more complex, especially for smaller societies that may lack the infrastructure and technical resources. Funders are increasingly influencing where researchers can publish (Plan S) and the emergence of more read and publish agreements (Wiley project DEAL in Germany) favours the larger players. However, open access should benefit smaller societies, as they are closer to the author/researcher community (who are their members). The challenge is to fully realise this potential.

ALPSP is heavily involved with the Plan S discussions. We were glad to see specific mention of Learned Societies and the Wellcome-UKRI-ALPSP Society Publishers Accelerating Open Access and Plan S project in the updated Plan S Rationale. We welcome the inclusion of a greater number of routes to compliance, including transformational agreements, the acknowledgement of the need for CC-BY non-derivative licences for some scholarly works, and the move towards price transparency in preference to APC caps.

However, we believe that while there is now a later start date, the timeline is still very ambitious, particularly given the need for strategy alignment in relation to research assessment. Also, areas remain where implications of implementation will need to be considered further, for example in relation to international collaborations. We look forward to continued dialogue with cOAlition S, to ensure that the value of community-led publishing in advancing knowledge and innovation continues to be recognised. 

My personal take on Plan S, is that the focus on publishing state-funded research should perhaps be on all articles becoming open access, as opposed to journals being open access. Especially as I see the future of academic publishing not necessarily in a book or journal format. This distinction may be helpful in making open access of all state-funded research a reality. 
  
How do you see the scholarly communications industry in 10 years’ time? What will have changed?
We are already seeing the line between author and reader blur. This will increase in the next 10 years. There will always be a need for quality approved content that is recognised from an authoritative source. The vessel by which we consume and publish this academic content may change (no longer in book or journal format).

There will be an expectation in 10 years’ time for all scholarly communications to be freely distributed and for search engines and social communities to be primary sources of useful information. It will utilise all the benefits of digital first publication, rather than recreating paper publication as web text.

Therefore, we will need to adjust our practice and business model to reflect this new reality. The best way, I believe, to see the future is to expect a rapid drop in all kinds of government backing from the economy and to figure out a publication system that will adapt. We must remember that when we look back at the history of publishing, it has only been a recent development (mid-20th century onwards) that academic publishing become a profit-making enterprise. History may be about to repeat itself!
 
Any interesting facts, pastimes or hobbies that you want to tell us about?
I am married to Louise (a nurse) and we will be celebrating our 26th wedding anniversary at the beginning of the ALPSP conference (11 September). We have a son, Jonathan, 23, who is about to buy his first home. I enjoy hillwalking, trips to the theatre and travelling (when possible). 

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