40th Anniversary Session: Past Presidents and Founders

The following post contains the introductory remarks from Barbara Meyers Ford duringing a session at the 2018 Annual Meeting discussing past presidents and founders of SSP.

The Society for Scholarly Publishing came into being because 3 options of communicating about innovations in publishing were either waning or about to disappear entirely.

One was that AAP’s PSP Division went through a very tough period in the early to mid-1970s, then we learned that the IEEE Biannual Conference on Scientific Journals chaired by Jim Lufkin was no longer going to be held after 1976.

And the third was a mode of communications at the time was about to lose its funding. That was the NSF-funded applied research project Improving the Dissemination of Scientific and Technical Information: A Practitioner’s Guide to Innovation.

PSP was revitalized through the efforts of Bill Begell, Alan Wittman, Marcel Dekker, John Wiley along with several other mainly commercial publishers over the next two decades. The PSP moving into the 21st century was a much more dynamic organization. But in the years prior to 1978 there were many of us concerned as to whether it would survive.

The IEEE Communications Society served as the safe harbor for an event coordinated over the course of about a decade by Jim Lufkin who at that time was the Editor of The Scientific Honeyweller, a corporate-sponsored technical journal. Jim’s promotion at Honeywell curtailed his activities with the conference and unfortunately no one stepped up to take his place.

The NSF project focused on innovation was a loose-leaf publication. The contents were generated by staff at Capital Systems Group led by John Strawhorn and Rick Omerso through in person or phone interview of the top people involved in all aspects of publishing nicknamed The Golden 100. I came on board in 1976 and became Associate Editor when Rick left CSG. As Associate Editor I took on the 2nd wave of interviews along with Elizabeth Fake and Brigitte Huybrechts. I’m sure by now you are starting to recognize some names.  Out loose-leaf publication was issued in a big blue binder and came to be called the Innovation Guide (some preferred The Blue Book). NTIS loved us as we had over 600 subscribers which was a best seller for them back in the mid-1970s.

At the last Innovation Guide Advisory Board meeting Mark Carroll then Director of Publications for the National Park Service stood up to toast the end of an era. But he couldn’t bring himself to say a final farewell. The people around the table agreed that they didn’t want to stop seeing each other. Fred Spilhaus, Executive Director, AGU, shared that he along with others would miss the comradery and information-sharing at the IEEE Conferences as well. Someone else mentioned the possibility that we would lose PSP as a communications hub.

All that talk galvanized the group to say they just wouldn’t let it happen.  After the meeting we began to have a series of informal meetings at restaurants and most often at Anita DeVivo’s Chevy Chase apartment.  Between meetings several of us drew up a prospectus in terms of organizational structure and financial projections.  We brought a few more people into the circle such as Bill Teare from Byrd Press (which became part of Cadmus which became part of Cenveo).  After a few meetings to review where we were heading Mark reported that after much debate as to whether it should be the Society for Scholarly Communications, the Society for Scholarly Publishing had been incorporated as a 501c(3) organization.  It was at that meeting that each of us present took out a 20 dollar bill, laid it on Anita’s coffee table, and declared SSP a bona fide professional membership organization. The date was June 16, 1978.

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