Thursday 7 February 2013

PSP 2013: The Future Value in the Professional Association

The social media challenge ACS tackled
In the first session at the Professional Scholarly Publishing conference, Harrison Coerver asked if associations still have a future. The following panel outlined the value they provide in the internet age and what services they will have in 2018.

Madeleine Jacobs, CEO of the American Chemical Society (ACS), provided an overview of their membership and services. They have over 163,000 members, with 187 local sections and 32 technical divisions. 87% of members have degrees in chemistry and more than 60% of members work in business and industry. 15% of members live outside the US and the offices have two main locations in Washington DC and Columbus, Ohio. They have a governing board for publishing and run - wait for it - 485 programmes. That's a big association with a lot of programmes.

The ACS has four strategic goals:

  1. Provide authoritative and indispensable information
  2. Advance members' careers
  3. Improve science education
  4. Communicate chemistry's value
How are they tackling the Race for Relevance? One of the key initiatives they have focused on has been to set up a tech trends roadmap. They have a group of staff who monitor and review on an on-going basis what the latest technology can deliver and what is relevant for members. They identified four challenges and four solutions:

  • embrace social media
  • make information portable
  • expand electronic publishing
  • make ACS national meeting presentations more accessible.

They have launched award winning apps, expanded their electronic publishing, focused on providing information through the Chemical Abstract Service and continue to build more virtual services. With 92-93% of revenue coming from publishing, it is critical that they continue to adapt and deliver value.

Her final piece of advice? Hire the very best tech people you can find. Steal people from other organisations who have done well. And don't forget to empower great people you already have on staff.

James Prendergast, COO of the IEEE, outlined the historic merger between AIEE and IRE, driven in the main part because the IRE were moving a lot faster through their international reach and open welcome to students and young professionals, something Coerver advocates strongly. They were quick to adopt advances, the AIEE recognised this, so they merged in the 60s.

The IEEE has more than 429 members globally. Their Xplore Digital Library has more than 3.25 million articles, they have 900 active standards and 500+ standards in development. They held 1396 conferences globally in 2012 and have 572 already in places for 2013. (Cue sharp intake of breath from the audience.) They have interactive HTML full-text articles with unique and active features - not just vanilla HTML.

Jacobs, Prendergast and Dylla with Coerver
The IEEE has completely endorsed open access and provides options for all authors to do this. All their technical journals are now hybrid with subscription and open access options. They have a number of journals that are now fully open access and announced a new mega-journal in 2012 that will be fully open access and multi-disciplinary.

They launched OpenStand for their standards in August 2012. Informational webinars provide new ways to deliver content. Pre-university outreach portals such as TryComputing and TryEngineering are proving to be a big hit. TryEngineering received 12 million hits in 2012 with the average time on site exceeding 10s of minutes. They are fostering engagement through social media and have expanded online impact through an extreme programming competition and the IEEE Day.

Prendergast advised delegates to focus on mobile. Your services have to be at the right time and in the context of when and where members want to receive that information. As an organisation they provide too much information. They have to focus on getting it right and making services relevant and timely.

Fred Dylla, CEO of the American Institute of Physics outlined the history of the association and the particular, unique circumstances that make their situation unique and challenging: that they are an umbrella body of ten physics associations. They have a membership of approximately 165,000 scientists with 75% based in the US and 25% internationally.

In 2008 they undertook a key strategic re-evaluation. This included divesting the offer of publishing services to members. Post-2008 there was a lot of self reflection. He described their governance structure as akin to the Senate and House of Representatives structure which led to the governance review post 2010 they conducted with the support of BoardSource. This led to them recently establishing the wholly owned subsidiary AIP Publishing LLC.

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