SETAC Globe - Environmental Quality Through Science
19 March 2015
Volume 16 Issue 3
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A Brief Primer on Publishing

Jen Lynch, SETAC Publications Manager

Once upon a time, scientific publications were an expensive product for an elite audience. Findings were published in books and journals that could only be found in top universities or in private libraries of other privileged scientists, and sometimes even in code, so only trusted colleagues could make sense of it.  Publishers had exclusive relationships with universities, and since scientific output was limited, they were able to set rates as they saw fit. Authors did not object since they prioritized reaching the “best” universities over broad dissemination of their work.

Over the years, research output grew, and education became more accessible. Players outside of publishing began to influence the industry by answering questions put forth from the new influx of academics such as:

  • How can we further disseminate our research, work or ideas? (Electronic publishing)
  • How can we determine “quality” in research? (Impact factor)
  • Then, later, is the impact factor benchmark adequate? (Altmetrics)
  • How can I better connect with others in my field? (Social media)
  • Why should I wait to share my findings? (The proliferation of the internet and online forums)
  • How much should we be sharing and at what cost? (Data repositories and open access)

These are just some of the issues the publishing industry is facing. As publishers of two esteemed scientific journals and a newly revitalized book program, these are also issues that SETAC is trying to address in a way that aids our membership without bankrupting the society or eroding our reputation.

The Publications Advisory Committee (PAC) and the SETAC World Council (SWC) consider publishing trends, financial risk and the author community when making decisions about SETAC publications. For example, you have probably noticed or heard that this year, the SETAC journals have eliminated print. It was making less and less sense to produce two identical products (a printed and online version) when our figures were showing significant drops in print subscriptions and huge growth in online usage. This move allowed us to eliminate page and color charges to authors since the printing, distribution and warehousing costs were similarly eradicated. Ahead of the change we launched iPad apps for both ET&C and IEAM, and we hope to unveil Android apps in the near future. Electronic publishing is not stagnant and has capabilities far beyond simply hosting a PDF of an article. The SETAC journals can be a foundation on which more populist publishing programs can be built, and it may also nicely dovetail into some of the bigger issues, such as data sharing, by developing more robust tagging capabilities. 

Watch this space for articles that address all of the topics above. If you have other ideas, questions, comments or concerns, please drop me a line. These changes are happening at a tremendous pace, but the opportunities to thrive are huge.

Author’s contact information: jen.lynch@setac.org

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