Thursday 7 March 2013

Planning for the unknowable: Sue Thorn gets to grips with scenario planning and the future of journals

Sue was CEO of the Society for Endocrinology for 20 years and set up its trading subsidiary, BioScientifica, which provided secretariat and publishing services for a range of other societies in the UK, Europe and USA.

She has been using her combined publishing and society management experience to identify the key variables that will affect journal income and sustainability in the future, and to establish a range of potential scenarios, which can then be modelled quantitatively and followed over time.

Sue says:

“I've been using scenario planning techniques for many years to aid strategic planning by quantifying uncertain variables. The advent of the financial crisis led me to use the technique to develop a spreadsheet to track the effects of changes in key financial variables at the touch of a key. So, if the value of the society’s investments went down, or journal attrition varied from budget, I could put this in the spreadsheet and immediately see the effect on the society’s surplus and total value over a two-year period.  It became clear that only a relatively small number of variables really made a difference, and I am now using a similar technique to model society publishing incomes for STM and AHSS journals. 

The results are really interesting and occasionally counter-intuitive. Some scenarios that seem quite worrying actually make little difference to net income, although most of these scenarios are likely to represent an interim point, not an endpoint, so this apparent steady state may well be illusory. Changing one variable can then make a difference of 20%.”

ALPSP is delighted to be working with Sue Thorn Consulting on the Open Access: Scenario Planning for Societies seminar on 20 March at the Royal College of Pathologists in London. It is an opportunity for our society members to share in Sue's expertise as she introduces delegates to the concept of using scenario planning to model potential changes to journal income.

Sue will be joined on the day by ALPSP Chief Executive, Audrey McCulloch, Caroline Black from The Biochemical Society at Portland Press, Victoria Gardner from Taylor & Francis, Judith Willetts, CEO of the British Society of Immunology, and Jane Winters from the Institute for Historical Research, for panel discussions that will explore what societies may be able to do to deal with any potential drop in their income.

The day will be held under Chatham House rules and will be interactive, with delegates encouraged to bring forward particular issues for discussion. Book now on the ALPSP website where full details are available.

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