Tuesday 10 October 2023

ALPSP Annual Conference 2023: A review by Danielle Tremeer

ALPSP Annual Conference 2023: A review by ALPSP Rising Star Award Winner, Danielle Tremeer, Geological Society of London

2023 is the inaugural year for the new ALPSP Rising Star award, designed to recognise potential in those who are at the start of their careers in academic publishing. I was delighted to be one of the first four winners and receive free attendance to the ALPSP Annual Conference and Awards from 13-15 September. 

When I started working at the Geological Society of London Publishing House in the summer of 2021, I was vaguely aware of the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers. Having studied English with Publishing at the University of Plymouth and completed an internship at Intellect, I had come across them before and knew that they were an organisation providing training and support to scholarly publishers. That year, their Annual Conference and Awards took place virtually due to the pandemic. In 2022, some of the more senior members of staff at the Publishing House travelled to Manchester to attend the conference in person. After receiving news of my award and registering for the event, I started to wonder what it would be like. Wasn’t it just for people who had worked in publishing for several years?

On day one, I arrived at the Hilton Hotel in the Deansgate area of Manchester for registration and lunch by myself - my managers were still enroute. The lobby was filled with groups of people greeting each other, which was heartwarming to see but did make me acutely aware that I knew nobody. I got myself some lunch and then plucked up the courage to join a woman who was sitting alone. We chatted about our job roles and the sessions we were most looking forward to, the weather and the differences between the UK and the US, where she had travelled from. As I headed upstairs for the first session of the conference, I felt reassured that being more junior wouldn’t hold me back in this environment.

The conference began with a keynote talk from Dr Elizabeth Gadd, Research Policy Manager at Loughborough University. Her session discussed the need for reform in the ways researchers are assessed, and the role that publication metrics can play in the process. Lizzie spoke with passion and conviction, emphasizing the impact that our profession can have on the communities we serve. Her case for reforming metric culture in favour of the humans behind the data was compelling and signalled the beginning of a thought-provoking three days.

The programme of talks covered themes including diversity, open science, accessibility, and future trends for academic publishing. Often, these topics converged – several of the sessions I attended on the second day spoke of the necessity of moving more broadly toward Open Access, but of the complexities involved in ensuring that this transition is made in an equitable way. One session that I found particularly interesting focussed on the hurdles which publishers can face in trying to launch Open Access books. Journal articles are transitioning toward OA as the norm much more quickly than long form content, a trend which can be explained in some part by the prohibitive costs for authors. Two titles in the Geological Society’s flagship Special Publications book series have had every article published OA in 2023, and this is something we are looking towards expanding with the announcement of UKRI’s Open Access books policy. It was very informative to hear industry experts discuss the potential pitfalls we may come up against, and of their advocacy for models such as Subscribe to Open.

The talks weren’t the only opportunity to learn from my peers. In the coffee breaks between sessions, at lunchtime and at the various social events (including the welcome reception on Wednesday and the dinner, awards and quiz on Thursday), everyone was friendly and open to chatting. Despite my anxieties that I would be much earlier in my publishing career than everyone else, I found myself socialising with not only managers and directors but those who were in their first or second roles in the industry – including the other winners of the ALPSP Rising Star Award. It was refreshing to speak with peers who shared similar professional concerns. Finding out that my friends and family are not the only ones to presume a job in publishing means that I write books is a conversation that sticks out in my memory!. A particular highlight of the conference was the dinner and quiz on Thursday. The food was delicious and the camaraderie around our table as we tried to work out the answers to questions on everything from music to geography made up for the fact that we came close to the bottom of the leaderboard… 

As someone who started working in the industry during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact that meeting peers from other companies had on me during the conference can’t be overstated. During the ALPSP AGM, a presentation was given encouraging members to propose new Special Interest Groups (SIG) and I found myself wondering if a group for those who are (fairly) new to academic publishing would be feasible. As the Rising Star award winners prepared to have their photographs taken on the Thursday, I was asked if any of us would be interested in co-chairing a SIG of just that nature. Watch this space!

Sitting on the train home on Friday afternoon, I reflected on how grateful I am to work in an industry that is so invested in bettering itself, in sharing ideas, in community. Publishing is ultimately a business which is all about people, though we can lose sight of this sometimes. The ALPSP conference was a fantastic reminder of why I got into this job in the first place, and I look forward to attending again in the future.

About the ALPSP Rising Star Award 2023
This new award aims to recognise potential in early career individuals. The winners are given the opportunity and financial support to attend the ALPSP Annual Conference in person and write a short review of their experiences of the conference. The ALPSP Rising Star Award is sponsored by Publishers Licensing Services.

The winners of this year's Rising Star Award are:
Jade Koo, BMJ
George Litchfield, eLife
Alex Oxford, Edinburgh University Press
Danielle Tremeer, Geological Society of London

Find out more about the awards.

ALPSP Annual Conference and Awards
Thank you to all our speakers, sponsors and attendees for making the ALPSP 2023 Conference and Awards such a success. We will be returning to the Hilton Manchester Deansgate Hotel next year from 11-13 September 2024. Save the date and look out for the call for topics in early November. For more information, watch the highlights video or visit our website.

About the Author
Danielle Tremeer, Publishing Assistant, Geological Society of London

Danielle Tremeer is a Publishing Assistant at the Geological Society of London, working primarily on their books programme since 2021. She is the main contact for authors and editors, providing assistance throughout the submission and publication process. Recently, she has been involved in wider projects such as the development of transformative agreements and commissioning efforts. Prior to this role, Danielle completed an internship at Intellect Books and holds a degree in English with Publishing from the University of Plymouth.