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The Rise and Value of Mentorship Programs in Scholarly Communications and Publishing

7th June 2016
By Adrian Stanley

The Society for Scholarly Publishing (SSP) recently awarded 12 one-year Fellowships to students and early-career professionals. The Fellowship Program, an extension of the former Travel Grant Program, offers a wide range of career development and nurturing opportunities for students and early-career professionals in the scholarly communication industry. Benefits include training opportunities, SSP membership, participation in community forums and SSP committees, and an assigned industry expert as mentor, which is what I am going to talk about in this blog post.

As well as being on the SSP Professional Development Committee who graded the 85+ entries for the Fellowship grants, I am extremely excited to have been selected as one of the mentors within the Fellowship program. Here I plan to discuss my reasons for applying and take the opportunity to encourage other publishing professionals to become mentors or mentees.

I have been very impressed with the number of highly experienced SSP members, former board members and past presidents who have also volunteered to be mentors, to both help support SSP but importantly the emerging talent and diverse colleagues within our community.

There is a wide range of different types of people in the mentoring program, from librarians, to editors, student run journals, publishers, and more established staff. We had over 85 applicants for the Fellowship grants, of which 12 have received funding and support this year. The process of reviewing the grant applications was also very illuminating, to be able to see into the minds, the visions and challenges of early-career and student colleagues working within scholarly communications and publishing.

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The 2016 SSP Fellowship winners, with their mentors.

I also hope that as a team of mentors and mentees we’ll be able to learn together and grow the program into something bigger and better. There’s now already collaboration within publishing organizations such as SSP and STM. I think this shows a larger trend and development in the industry to better support the emerging talent, especially outside confines of the mentees’ own organizations.

SSP Executive Director Melanie Dolechek put it best when she said that as mentors, “we are passionate about making sure the future leaders of scholarly publishing are positioned with the tools and resources that will help them succeed.” This year’s SSP meeting has a strong early-career and diversity theme and a number of presentations and keynote on the mentorship topic too.

Taking on this role is important to me for a number of reasons. Firstly, I believe it is important for me to give back to the publishing community. SSP is a volunteer organization that has given me invaluable experiences throughout my career. I feel the time is right to make time to give back, and to support up and coming talent within SSP’s membership. I have personally had some great mentors who have given me sound advice which I will always appreciate. One I recall is Barbara Meyers Ford who encouraged me to volunteer on SSP’s Annual Meeting Committee and become more involved in volunteer committee work (how right she was!). All the mentors and volunteer experiences helped me develop and progress my career, so I think of it as a kind of “Pay It Forward” thing, if that’s not too much of a cliche!

I also hope that the experience of being a mentor will allow me to better understand some of the challenges and insights of early career professionals. This should in turn make me a more well-rounded publishing professional and will also expose me to the emerging concerns, approaches and challenges within the industry.

Publishing is in a time of deep transition and innovation, we see from within Digital Science how we have helped amazing founders and their staff grow and develop with their products, in the process, changing the way researchers and publishers think. Many of these start-up companies, which have completely changed the landscape, are 5 or less years old. It’s never been more important to look out for the people who will be future leaders, the innovators, as they will be the ones who shape the development of scholarly publishing through future decades.

In this time of change and innovation all stakeholders in scholarly publishing should be looking for ways to work together, to better support and understand the challenges, to explore new perspectives, and to remove barriers to progress. The SSP fellowships are one part of this, it would be fantastic to see more of these types of industry initiatives succeed.

So if you are interested in either being a mentor or being matched with a mentor, you can contact SSP via the form on their website.

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