Taking a stand on author deposit mandates
There is an accelerating pressure on publishers to transition to untested business models in scholarly publishing that involve open-access schemes. This is a major issue for AIP and its Member Societies because scientific publishing is our most important activity. We engage in scholarly publishing in the interest of science and its practitioners. Our record in scholarly publishing is impressive. The physics community has been known for its rapid adoption of new technologies and business model innovation—from the invention of the web by the high-energy-physics community almost two decades ago, to robust online distribution platforms, to the innovative arXiv e-print server that serves many fields of physics, to experimenting with different business models, such as articles on demand and tiered subscriptions.
The journal business is under considerable pressure because an entire generation has grown accustomed to surfing the web for information and expects it all to be free. Unfortunately, there are always costs associated with the production and dissemination of intellectual property—whether it is an artistic work such as a movie or music, or a publication, such as a book or a peer-reviewed journal. The newspaper business has not found a viable model in its transition to offering a mixed print-based/web-based product. We regularly witness the jettison of reporters and feature departments, and even the large national dailies are searching for financial lifelines through ancillary products and businesses. We have seen the disappearance of science reporters, which is one important reason why AIP revamped Inside Science News Service last year, to be geared to reporters who don't have a science background.
Scholarly journals' strong connection with research institutions and libraries has helped maintain a certain level of stability during this transition. However, budget cuts at libraries and increasing outside pressures to make scholarly information more accessible have led to government initiatives that mandate free public access to journal articles. Last week the National Research Council (NRC) held a public symposium on the most visible mandate passed by the US Congress in December 2007, which requires that all publications funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) be deposited by their authors to the NIH public website (Pub Med Central) within 12 months of publication. Most scholarly publishers, including AIP, have gone on record in opposing the creation of this one-size-fits-all unfunded mandate for a large fraction of the federally funded biomedical research in the US. The NRC Symposium on Author Deposit Mandates for Federal Research Grantees debated the issue of whether the mandate should be extended to all federal agencies that fund research. From the standpoint of most web users and librarians, this directive sounds appealing. From the standpoint of a journal publisher like AIP, which invests significantly in peer-review management, copyediting, digital translation, and online hosting and archiving of the journal, this directive would devalue the publisher's investment after 12 months, undermining the viability of the journal business.
I gave a presentation at this symposium, stressing the scale and nature of the current and prevalent business model, which is underpinned by institutional subscriptions. Access to scholarly research has improved immensely based on this model. AIP allows its authors to post copies of their peer-reviewed articles on both their personal and institutional websites and adjusts institutional subscriptions based on the size of institution. I cautioned that seemingly well-intentioned public policy often has unintended consequences. Given the present turmoil in the global economy, this is not the time to be mandating significant changes in the well-established business model that supports essential scholarly communication within the scientific community.
In late January, AIP exhibited at the American Library Association Midwinter Meeting in Denver. More than 10,000 librarians, including many with physics, astronomy, and math backgrounds, attended. Representing AIP were Terry Hulbert, director of Business Development; Tim Ingoldsby, director of Strategic Initiatives and Publisher Relations; and Randy Nanna, publisher of Physics Today—along with Lori Carlin, director of Circulation and Fulfillment Services, and Bruce Shriver, senior marketing manager (who are pictured at the AIP booth). The Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy, the newly expanded online access to Physics Today, and the AIP Digital Archive generated much interest. Many of the librarians who stopped by the AIP booth were from state universities. Because they are expecting budget cuts, they are looking at their collections to see how to reduce costs. AIP, by discussing issues and challenges at meetings like this one, continues to maintain strong connections with the library community.
Tempered success for fundraising in 2008
For AIP's Development Office, 2008 proved to be a challenging but ultimately rewarding year. The current economic crisis has taken its toll on philanthropic institutions across the world, and AIP has seen its share of difficulty, with the Center for History of Physics and Sigma Pi Sigma direct mail campaigns raising less money than in 2007. However, thanks to a large gift for the History Center from the Avenir Foundation, 2008 was AIP Development's most productive year to date, with $3.8 million raised.
In the fall of 2008, AIP hired Community Consulting Services (CCS), a fundraising consulting firm, to conduct a development assessment and feasibility planning study and deliver recommendations. CCS completed the assessment and issued a comprehensive report. AIP management will now analyze the results and determine priorities and implementation. Stay tuned for future updates on the direction of the development office.
Physics postdocs as an economic indicator?!
The Statistical Research Center has posted data about recent physics degree recipients one year after they earned their degrees. The preliminary findings are based on surveys of bachelors and PhDs who earned their degrees in 2005 and 2006. About 60% of recent physics PhDs accepted postdoctoral positions. This sharp increase in physics PhDs taking postdocs is similar to the increase last seen during the late 1980s. Interestingly, both increases preceded major economic recessions that affected the US and many other countries. You can read these and other important statistics at www.aip.org/statistics/trends/emptrends.html.
Who we are - Accounting (part 2 of 2)
Under the direction of the Controller/Assistant Treasurer, the Assistant Controller's Office (AIP organizational chart, page 39), led by Sherry Render, oversees all general accounting operations. This includes general accounting, accounts payable, payroll, fixed assets, revenue reporting, and personnel budgets. The staff is responsible for processing accounts payable, which includes auditing all incoming invoices (averaging 1,200 a month), matching them to purchase orders, and processing for payment. The payroll staff reviews time sheets, updates salary and personnel information, issues paychecks, and is responsible for all payroll tax filings. Salary and benefits are AIP's largest expense at more than $39 million per year. The general accounting staff is responsible for bank statement and account reconciliations, financial analysis and trend reporting, capital and fixed asset recording and monitoring, revenue reporting, and reconciliation for all society-related collections.
Also under the direction of the Controller/Assistant Treasurer, the Accounts Receivable and Collections Office (AIP organizational chart, page 40), led by Doris Lewis, oversees all phases of the order management process, accounts receivable, cash collections, and e-commerce activities within AIP. Accounts receivable is responsible for billing, recording, and collecting revenue for advertising, exhibits, conference proceedings, page charges and reprints, and other miscellaneous revenue. Staff also process daily cash receipts (including checks, wires, and credit card transactions from our bank, e-commerce sites, and internally) and reconcile all cash daily.
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