After 11 years, Haynes calls career as head of AIP Publishing “a great journey”
For the past 11 years, John Haynes had a guiding hand in the publishing evolution of the American Institute of Physics and AIP Publishing. As the CEO of AIP Publishing for the last seven years, Haynes took on the challenge of transforming publishing at AIP and oversaw a process of review and renewal about how the organizations could meet the changing needs of the scientific publishing world.
On May 29, Haynes will walk out of the doors at 1305 Walt Whitman Road and on to his next adventure as he steps down from his CEO post and retires from AIP Publishing. But before he left, he talked about his background, how he got into publishing, arriving at AIP, the future of digital publishing, the impact of COVID-19, and what he thought his legacy would be when he was done.
EDUCATION AND CAREER CHOICES
Haynes earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from North Staffordshire Polytechnic, a master’s degree and doctorate from the University of British Columbia in structural inorganic chemistry and did his postdoctoral work at the inorganic chemistry lab in Oxford. In 1987, he then came to a crossroad about what he was going to do after so many years as a student.
“You’re interested in science, and you’re interested in communicating science, so where is the intersection of those two? It was scientific publishing. In the mid ’80s, my first job in publishing was with Taylor & Francis. They were a small, privately-owned publishing company with a long history back to the 18th century. They had a big legacy, but they were very small. They were expanding, and they wanted a physical science commissioning editor.
“So that was really it. I didn’t really know anything about publishing, and they said, ‘Right, you’re our new commissioning editor for physics and chemistry. Go out there and commission some books!’ It was great. It was in the days before the internet or email, so doing international trips and going to visit academics, talking them into writing books. It was fax machines or telephone calls, no Google maps or GPS. You talk about just sitting in the hotel the day before you were to do the meeting, and you’d be trying to find the names and addresses and phoning round to get appointments.
“Most academics were very friendly and welcomed you into their office. They wanted to talk about their research, and nowhere was there a point where I got a door pushed in my face.”
CREATING CHANGE AT AIP, TAKING THE HELM OF AIP PUBLISHING
After spending time at different publishing companies in the United Kingdom, Haynes received an offer to come to the United States to take on a challenge — evolving and leading a new publishing effort for AIP.
“Fred Dylla hired me in 2009. He knocked on my door and said, ‘Do you want to come work at AIP as VP of publishing?’ Fred really wanted me to take charge of a major transformation of publishing at AIP — what the last 11 years has been all about.
“A bit of apprehension but a lot of anticipation in a positive way. There seemed to be a need for a job to be done, and I like challenges, so I could step up to a new challenge — to be a lead in publishing. I had been editorial director at RSC, and I got a lot of responsibility there, but this was a big challenge again, so it was too good an opportunity to turn down.
“The board chair at the time was Lou Lanzerotti. I think Lou recognized that there had been no significant governance review at AIP for many years. He recognized that any effective organization had to have a process of review and renewal about what fits their purpose.
“Lou took it on, an arduous challenge, and did a fantastic job of leading a governance review at AIP. The first step the AIP Board implemented was to create AIP Publishing as a separate, wholly owned limited liability corporation with its own board and a certain level of independence and autonomy. At the same time, the new company had responsibilities to protect the AIP brand, serve the mission and return an annual dividend.
“It was very well put-together. And even today when you look through it, it is a very well-functioning structure.
“For me, the last seven years have been working as CEO under the new governance structure.
“I think this change really made a difference to the member societies who were publishing with AIP Publishing. In the previous model, they were being served but under a day-to-day basis. It was very much a service-level approach, very detailed, and narrow.
“What we’ve been able to do, and it didn’t happen immediately, but as we’ve built capabilities, resources and trust, we have transitioned those member societies relationships to strategic partnerships. This gives us the runway to think about new products. We launched AVS Quantum Science only this year with AVS. We will be launching a new journal with ASA later this year. These are things that wouldn’t have happened before.
“Physics publishing continues to be a competitive market — for authors and readers. We now have a truly outstanding flagship journal for the physical science community — Applied Physics Reviews — and a growing portfolio of topical journals.
“The changes we’ve implemented have been deep-seated and certainly changed the nature of who we are. We’ve moved from very much what I’d call a production factory when I joined. Most processes now are fully automated, and we are more a team of knowledge workers — thinking strategically about campaigns, about relationships, our customers, our partners, our societies.
“When I joined, we had one person doing sales, one person doing marketing. Now, we have a much stronger capability in sales and marketing. The whole balance of the organization has really shifted to be a professional publishing house.”
RIDING DIGITAL PUBLISHING INTO THE 21ST CENTURY
“In scholarly communication the transition has only really just begun, in my view. It is around how to build in speed and convenience while not sacrificing quality. How to give researchers back some of their time — for example, submitting articles, supporting good scientific writing, finding the right piece of information in their workflow, supporting researchers in their careers.
“One of the key trends is open access. We’ve created a successful open access journal program with AIP Advances, our first gold OA journal, launched in 2010. We’ve now got six gold access journals, and our philosophy has been to provide good, quality choices for authors.
LOOKING BACK AT HIS LEGACY
“I think it is the change of culture. I took over a successful organization but one that was more inwardly focused on process and not connected tightly enough with customers and other key stakeholders. The initial challenge was to transform the business from a fee-for-service organization to a strategically focused professional publisher. What we’ve created is a culture that is more outward focused, focused on the market, competitors and serving our customers. There is confidence in our abilities to deliver to customer needs. But that change in culture, the way of thinking, bringing evidence and facts and figures into the equation is key to success.
“I’m pleased with the progress we’ve made working with our Member Societies. We asked them for feedback, and we get good levels of satisfaction. I’m proud of that because AIP, one of its strengths is the collaborative, the cooperative.”
COVID-19 IMPACT ON SCIENCE PUBLISHING
“Right now, we’ve transitioned remarkably smoothly, with staff working remotely and all systems and processes up and running.
“It will have an impact, I’m sure. Universities are not going to go away. Science research is not going to go away. The need to communicate through journals has stood the test of time for hundreds of years now. The journal brand is remarkably resilient. The challenge is in the business model. Academic libraries who pay to access are going to have even tighter budget constraints. We’re going to have to find more ways to build value into the publishing process.
“At AIP Publishing we’re investing in data technology, being able to extract data from content, and from the surrounding business interactions. Our thesaurus is starting to link content in other ways. We’re launching an eBooks program later this year which is a really exciting development.
SURVIVAL, CHANGE, CREATION IN PUBLISHING’S FUTURE
“Publishers are going to have to get a lot more creative, with research data, code and methods as part of the mix. The ones that thrive will be the ones that have the deepest and closest relationships with their customers and have staff engaged with the mission.
“I do have concerns for some societies. They were already being challenged by their membership model, their membership demographic — membership numbers were not trending in a positive direction. And now, a major source of their income, scientific meetings, is in jeopardy.
“I think there is a great opportunity for AIP and AIP Publishing to rethink AIP. What’s the digital world for AIP? How does AIP create the tools and resources that small, medium and large societies need to survive and thrive?
“We’re almost 90 years on from 1931, the year when AIP was formed. It was formed to serve the need of societies who, under threat, needed efficiencies and economies of scale to print and distribute their journals. By collaborating and getting scale, they found a way to survive. There is a real parallel, and I would say it is a digital parallel rather than the print world that AIP was created to serve 90 years ago.
“Science isn’t going to go away. Universities aren’t going to go away. There will certainly be changes. It will be the organizations that are close to their customers, have strong brand propositions, and can be innovative to serve the needs of the scientific community. AIP Publishing has got what it takes.”
AFTER LEAVING AIP PUBLISHING
The restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic have thrown his best laid plans into the air. He hoped to be able to go back to the U.K., but quarantine conditions may prevent that from happening immediately.
“Short term — I don’t know. I like traveling. I did a lot of traveling for work. My original plan was a big road trip in the U.S. with my wife. I don’t know when international flights will feel normal again.
“I hope to stay in indirect touch with the industry to help societies through difficult times. I think I have something to offer.”
What will he miss the most after he leaves AIP Publishing?
“It’s the people, staff, board, editors, publishing partners. The whole staff at AIP Publishing have been great to work with. We’ve come a long way, and it’s been a great journey together.”