AIP | Matters
-- -- April 2, 2012

Fred Dylla Director's Matters

By H. Frederick Dylla, Executive Director & CEO

Imagine a world without editors

As a publisher, I never imagined that I could have more appreciation than I have always had for the process of editing. After all, the distillation of overwhelming quantities of accessible information is vitally important to the publishing industry. But then I heard acclaimed author Malcolm Gladwell's eye-opening plenary address at last month's Association of American Publishers Annual Convention in New York City. Gladwell's talk centered on the value that editors bring to scholarly publishing; they separate the valuable from the less valuable, with the potential to make what is good text great. The editorial process preserves the value and integrity of published works.

Malcolm Gladwell. Photo credit: Kris Krug Gladwell, who has four New York Times best sellers to his credit, made the intriguing assertion that the late Steve Jobs—the high-tech guru and Appleproducts creator—was not distinguished as an author of new technology but as one who improved technology created by others, making it accessible and appealing to potential consumers.

In the publishing world, whether it is a short story, a book-length collection of words, or a journal article, a good editor saves valuable time and makes a literary work more user-friendly by directing our attention to the core information and salient points. With the advent of the Internet, vast archives of information are now available to everyone. But to borrow a phrase from the early days of the Internet, the information superhighway is seriously overcrowded to the point of data gridlock. The most daunting problem for the casual seeker of information and the most serious scholar is not the lack of ready access to vast quantities of information, but rather the effective editing of the irrelevant from what is desired and most helpful.

Gladwell creatively illustrated the value of the editing process by noting examples where modern societies have not sufficiently applied the benefits of editing to other disciplines. He pointed out the quandary that exists in modern medicine, wherein both detection and treatment methods for certain chronic diseases have increased significantly—there's a lot of new information out there, but the success rate for the prevention of premature deaths has not improved over the last 50 years.

Expert editing is the catalyst that will push the publishing industry forward. "Don't give me more," said Gladwell, "Give me less and make it good, and you'll be in business forever." These days, just about anybody can write and even self-publish a book, but a talented author matched with an experienced editor can write a book worth reading over and over. Ernest Hemingway and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings were great writers, but their greatest works were published before 1947, which was the year their editor, Max Perkins, died.

So what is the connection to our business of scholarly publishing? Our editors are the first to look at submitted articles, which are then passed onto peer reviewers who perform essential quality checks. Editors are often called upon to adjudicate the views of several reviewers before a peer-reviewed article can be published or rejected for publication.

There is clearly too much data residing on web-based platforms for a working physicist to effectively review. Therefore, it is incumbent upon scholarly publishers to continually develop new search and discovery tools that navigate on search terms tagged within the text to allow the reader to find the essential information they want.

Technological innovations allow us to use computer and machine-readable texts and codes to sift through all the available information to retrieve selective data of interest to the reader. AIP is building a new Scitation platform to host our journals and those of our Member Societies for whom we publish. We are facilitating the semantic tagging of texts and text-driven search and discovery tools that will allow our readers to effectively pare down an overwhelming volume of content to facilitate quick access to the desired nuggets of useful information.
Publishing Matters

JCP JCP "Best of 2011" Editors' Choice collection

Each year the editors of The Journal of Chemical Physics facilitate the publication of the most innovative and influential articles in the field of chemical physics in one special edition. In their 2011 "Editors' Choice" collection, now available online, the JCP editors have selected a few of the many notable JCP articles from 2011 that present ground-breaking research. The collection of nearly 60 articles represents only a small fraction of the critical research published in JCP last year and is representative of the broad cross section of topics that the journal covers, with subjects ranging from biological systems to condensed matter. These seminal papers will be freely available through the JCP website until the end of 2012.
Physics Resources Matters

Are high school teachers prepared to teach physics?

graph The SRC recently published a report titled focus on High School Physics Teacher Preparation. This report describes the teaching responsibilities and post-secondary educational background of high school physics teachers who are physics specialists, career teachers, occasional physics teachers, and new physics teachers. Specialists are teachers who have a major or minor in physics, have taught for more than five years, and have taught at least as much physics as any other subject. By contrast, new teachers are not as well prepared and have taught for less than five years in total. However, we were encouraged to find that more than 75% of new teachers had taken more than the introduction physics sequence in college. For more information, see the report on the SRC website.
Coming Up

March 31–April 3

  • APS April Meeting, "100 Years of Cosmic Ray Physics" (Atlanta, GA)

Thursday, April 5

  • Ice cream social (Melville, NY)

Wednesday, April 11

  • Employee birthday breakfasts (College Park, MD, and Melville, NY)

April 11–12

  • Committee on Publishing Partnerships meeting (College Park, MD)

April 14–15

  • AAS-sponsored workshop on observations and outreach for Solar Eclipse 2017 (College, Park, MD)

April 16–20

  • 2012 Industrial Physics Forum (Trieste, Italy)

April 18–19

  • Astronomical Plates workshop, sponsored by AIP Center for History of Physics and AAS (College Park, MD)

April 23–26

  • Individual TIAA counseling sessions (Melville, NY)