Annual Meeting Reports

Outsourcing Non–Core-Competence Editorial and Production Functions

Outsourcing of some editorial and production functions can save journals time and money. But what should be outsourced, and how? This session focused on two professional societies’ experiences in that regard.

The first presentation was by Audra E Cox, managing editor of the two American Society for Investigative Pathology (ASIP) journals: the American Journal of Pathology and the Journal of Molecular Diagnostics. Because a family emergency prevented Cox from attending, her remarks, “Outsourcing Postacceptance Workflow”, were presented by the moderator, Mary Warner.

Points in the presentation included the following: ASIP’s in-house editorial staff substantively edits manuscripts for the journals, and then off-site vendors copyedit, handle composition and layout, and enter proof corrections. The editorial office remains highly involved in the processes performed by the vendors. The copyeditors are a small group of independent contractors who work from home and are overseen by a vendor. They use a style guide from ASIP, and ASIP and the vendor monitor quality. In 2008, ASIP began using an offshore vendor, in India, for composition and layout. The ASIP editorial office readies figures before composition, and it reviews proofs in house.

For working with offshore vendors, the presentation noted, instructions may need to be especially detailed and explicit. Advice from Cox included providing a style guide for figures and tables, keeping the style guide updated, and having a liaison at the vendor’s facility who can be an effective intermediary. Conference calls with vendors in other time zones can pose scheduling challenges, but a difference in time zones can also be an advantage, in that corrections submitted during the day (US time) can be handled overnight, thus saving time.

General advice from Cox included the following: Provide thorough documentation to ensure continued quality. Work with the vendor as a team committed to excellence of the final publication. Monitor work, for example, through workflow audits. Be open to suggestions from the vendor for increasing speed and quality.

Terri Lewandowski, director of journal production and manufacturing services of the American Chemical Society (ACS)— which publishes 40 journals—summarized the society’s transition to using outside vendors. Describing the rationale for the transition, Lewandowski stated that ACS wished to begin producing papers first in XML to improve Web delivery, increase discoverability through enhanced tagging, and facilitate provision of related products. ACS debated whether to make the transition to in-house staff or use a vendor. A major advantage of using a vendor would be tapping expertise in XML. Advantages of keeping publications entirely in house included the production staff’s knowledge of chemistry and chemical information, the high existing standards, the multiple checks already present, and the excellent production times. Ultimately, Lewandowski said, the society “took the plunge” to using a vendor. “It really did feel like diving off a cliff,” she recalled.

During the transition period, Lewandowski noted, the initial vendor mimicked existing procedures, the XML system was developed, and technical editors at ACS received requisite training. Although the vendor advised taking 3 years, the transition was completed in half that time; the last journal finished the transition in March 2008. ACS now uses multiple vendors. Keys to success, Lewandowski commented, have included a talented information-technology group, a highly knowledgeable in-house production business unit, and a tightly knit team.

Lewandowski expressed satisfaction with the move to using vendors. Costs have been contained, she said, quality is high, and time from acceptance to publication has decreased, in part because all 24 hours of the day are being used and functions can be carried out in parallel by different vendors. To help ensure a successful vendor– client relationship, Lewandowski suggested issuing a request for proposals and visiting potential vendors, holding detailed technical and business discussions, defining what reports are needed, setting expectations, specifying validations on both ends, and building the needed transactions. “Communication is key,” she said.

Lewandowski’s final slide, titled “Continuation of the Vendor Journey”, stated: “It’s the new normal.”