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By Michael Lucibella
In February, the American Institute of Physics established a new wholly owned, but managerially independent, limited liability company to oversee publishing all of its research journals. The move comes amidst a broader restructuring effort by AIP to modernize its governance, and better respond to the changing publishing market.
“The AIP gets nearly all of its funding from publishing,” said Fred Dylla, the Executive Director of AIP. “It’s very important that the publishing be run as efficiently as possible.”
AIP is an umbrella organization, whose members are other societies, among the largest of which is APS. APS is the publisher of the Physical Review family of journals, including Physical Review Letters, Physical Review X and Reviews of Modern Physics, whereas AIP publishes a portfolio of 17 journals, many of which concentrate on applied areas of physics, as well as journals of several of its member societies.
Several APS divisions and topical groups correspond closely with areas covered by AIP journals, including The Journal of Chemical Physics, Physics of Fluids, Physics of Plasmas, and Review of Scientific Instruments. AIP also publishes Journal of Applied Physics and Applied Physics Letters.
The newly formed AIP Publishing LLC is designed to be leaner and more adaptable. “Publishing is a fast moving business,” Dylla said. “It was felt to be very important to get the publishing right.”
AIP Publishing will have its own governing board of about 12 people with a half-dozen experts of varying backgrounds, many fewer than the 40-person board of AIP. The new board plans to meet four times a year, rather than twice.
Despite the new governance structure, the intention is to keep the day-to-day operations of the journals unchanged. AIP Publishing is retaining the same offices and much of the same staff as when publishing was directly under AIP. Physics Today will remain editorially under AIP, while its physical publishing will be done by the LLC.
“It was an AIP Governing Board decision that created this entity, and it is very similarly organized to what AIP publishing used to be,” said Marsha Lester, a chemistry professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and editor of The Journal of Chemical Physics. “The primary difference is that [the LLC] has its own board of directors.”
The CEO of the new company is John Haynes, who was previously vice president for publishing at AIP.
“[T]he creation of AIP Publishing LLC places the organization in an excellent, strategic position to deliver even more benefit to global researchers whilst continuing to provide great value to library customers worldwide,” Haynes said in a statement.
The reorganization comes as part of a major rethinking of AIP operations laid out in a 2008 self-assessment and a 2010 governance review.
“It had become clear to our Governing Board that it had been 80 years since AIP as a whole really looked at its governance,” Dylla said.
The assessments criticized the complexity of its system for decision-making, and its large, 40-person Governing Board.
“When a meeting is that big, and it meets so infrequently, it’s hard for the management and the governance to be a closely knit team,” Dylla said.
Now that the publishing operation has been streamlined, the board is refocusing on reassessing and restructuring the governance of the rest of the Institute’s operations. In addition to Physics Today, AIP runs the Niels Bohr Library & Archives and the Center for History of Physics, as well as the Statistical Research Center. It is active in government and media relations, and also administers the Society of Physics Students for undergraduates, and the Sigma Pi Sigma honor society.
Commenting on the establishment of AIP Publishing LLC, Bill Appleton, a professor emeritus at the University of Florida and editor of Applied Physics Reviews said “The main concern I have personally is that AIP and APS have been very closely coupled over the years and from a scientific point of view that is extremely beneficial. I don’t think this will have any effect on that, but it would be too bad if it did.”
Bruno Nachtergaele, a physics professor at the University of California, Davis and editor of Journal of Mathematical Physics, said that he thinks the new setup will help the journals respond to changes in the market faster.
“I’m certainly optimistic about the journal and I don’t think the new company will affect it greatly,” Nachtergaele, said. “I don’t see anything negative at this time.”
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