Annual Report 2012: FY July 1, 2011-June 30, 2012
The mission of the Publications Committee is to assist the Association’s Elected Editor with stimulating publication of the science and practice of petroleum geology and doing so in a financially sustainable way that maximizes benefits to the membership.
In the last year, seven new publications have been released in hard copy format, and three in digital-only format. Twelve older publications were re-released in digital format. This is a pleasing improvement over the previous year, but there was a large element of chance in the timing, and several of these have taken much longer to reach completion than desirable. A number of projects are in the pipeline, and five substantive new proposals are in review, but end-dates remain somewhat uncertain because of a wide variety of factors, many of which are beyond the control of the committee or the volume editors. The aim now is to see what can be done to bring projects to completion more quickly.
Aside from keeping up momentum with publications already in progress, the primary activity of the committee this year has to been to take a hard look at the mission and goals for the committee, to consider if current practice and committee membership is fit for purpose.
Issues identified as giving particular cause for concern were
- The supply of new material for publication by AAPG in non-journal formats has been diminishing worryingly over the last couple of years.
- AAPG is no longer seen as the publisher of first choice in the petroleum geoscience domain, there are now many other competing venues.
- Non-journal publications have not regularly been produced in a financial sustainable way.
- The publishing world is changing fast, both in technology and the resultant expectations from the membership, and this requires changes to the business models.
- The publications committee itself has not been functioning as effectively as desirable, with a large number of inactive members and all the work falling on a small subgroup, suggesting it is not configured appropriately for the needs.
- Integration and relations with other AAPG areas and activities has not been as productive as needed to stimulate new publications and avoid unnecessary duplication of effort.
In November 2011, a working committee sub-group debated a discussion document that analyzed the situation and presented some options. This working group comprised current vice chairs, past chair, HQ staff, representation from EMD, the chair of the research committee, a young professional, and the Elected Editor. It agreed it would be helpful to start at the top by refocusing the mission statement for the publications committee, and then translating that into specific actions and short-term targets.
A new mission statement for the committee (as above) was approved by the Executive Committee in January, along with an extensively revised set of goals. Essential near- term targets were also agreed:
- To publish a minimum of at least 10 new titles each year;
- To develop processes that nurture embryonic projects and thus increase the content available for publication, which includes identifying and removing barriers to publishing (both real and perceived);
- To reduce significantly the time from conception to production for new projects;
- To restructure the publications committee into distinctly separate groups with specific responsibilities in order to service these targets:
- Content acquisition working group under its own vice chair;
- Editorial oversight panel under its own vice chair;
- Management and steering group that will include active participation from EMD, and the research and education committees.
- To engage HQ staff more fully with the whole life cycle of non-journal publications in order to speed up output and improve cost management.
Work is now under way to meet these goals. There was a very fruitful discussion on how this should be achieved at the in-person committee meeting at ACE in Long Beach in April.
In the context of soliciting new projects and increasing the number of titles produced each year, the same meeting also reviewed an interesting analysis by Beverly Molyneux (AAPG HQ) of the best and worst selling publications produced in the last eight years: there is a strong bias in the best-sellers list towards items on the practice of petroleum geology, what one might call “how-to” books.
Fifteen members of the committee have completed their term on the committee since June 2011 and have been retired. Four members of the committee have had their term extended, and Terri Olson has kindly agreed to remain and contribute her experience after completing her term as chair last June.
New members of the committee are now being recruited to fulfill specific roles. Four young professionals have joined the committee specifically to focus on content acquisition and nurturing embryonic projects. Additional members will be appointed soon to assist with editorial oversight, project approval, and quality control as publications are produced.
Links to the research committee have been strengthened by redefining the role of one committee member as an active member in both committees rather than having the previous, more passive, “liaison” reporting role from publications back to research: thanks to Jean-Yves Chatellier for agreeing to this extra workload!
Colin P. North, Chair
Committee members: Jean-Yves D. Chatellier, Timothy Diggs, Bret John Fossum, Gretchen M. Gillis, Alexis Godet, Catherine L. Hanks, Howard David Johnson, Barry Jay Katz, Heather L. Lareau, Stephen Ernest Laubach, John Clay Lorenz, Ernest A. Mancini, William A. Morgan, Colin Peter North (chair), Terrilyn M. Olson, Jack C. Pashin, Douglas Cameron Peters, Atle Rotevatn, Timothy James Sheehy, Denise M. Stone, Michael L. Sweet, and Stephanie Germaine Thomas