The Honor Has Been Mine: Susi Skomal Reflects on 17 Years Leading BioOne
As I reflect on the privilege I have felt while leading BioOne these past 17 years, I find myself asking where the time has gone? This question has an easy answer, for we’ve been busy keeping up with the rapidly evolving scholarly publishing endeavor. BioOne was entrusted to me at the point that its first executive director Heather D. Joseph had brought it into reality and set it firmly on its legs ready to run. My job was clear; prove the concept.
In 2005, BioOne offered 82 titles, three of which were open access. The collection boasted 303,400 pages and some 8,824 articles. As a result of partnerships with OCLC, Amigos, and CSA (now known as ProQuest), there were already 820 subscribers. The royalty revenue returned to the publishers totaled $1,298,288, and the price per page had decreased 64%, while the CPI in 2005 had increased 12%. BioOne was fired up and delivering on mission.
After creating a second collection—BioOne.2, which has since been folded into BioOne Complete—as well as weathering the recession of 2008, and muscling through the existential threat posed by the COVID pandemic, BioOne has met and exceeded expectations. Although the landscape has changed in fundamental ways since BioOne was launched, I’m pleased to report that in 2021, the initial concept has grown roots deep enough to support a sturdy canopy.
This year, the collection offers 215 titles, 33 of which are available open access. BioOne Complete includes more than 1,500,000 pages, with a record-setting 200,000 articles. The BioOne Complete collection currently reaches over 3,500 institutions in 128 countries throughout the world. Most importantly, as of 2020 BioOne shared $4,326,447 in royalty revenue with our publishers, a three-fold increase over the past 16 years.
The relationships that BioOne has formed throughout the years of its growth and development have served the organization well. At its beginning, BioOne operated on a platform created by Allen Press, we then migrated to Atypon, and the collection is now served up on SPIE’s state-of-the-art platform. This is a mutually beneficial relationship with a like-minded not-for-profit organization. After a lengthy and profitable alliance with Publishers Communication Group, BioOne now manages its own sales and distribution. Moreover, our adventures with Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene made a solid contribution to multidisciplinary scientific collaboration, while teaching us valuable lessons that have moved the needle forward.
I cherish the interactions with a host of professional colleagues over these years. Of BioOne’s 40 creative and supportive directors who have led the organization, it has been an honor to work with all but six. I shall continue to miss the four who have left us far too soon: Susan Ford, Richard C. Fyffe, Joan R. Giesecke, and Catherine N. Norton. Throughout my tenure, the ship has been adroitly steered by chairman Dr. Kent E. Holsinger. We have also benefitted from the many talents of a team that began with Todd Carpenter (now executive director of NISO), and now includes seven who surpass me in every way, expertly serving as my anchor. I am grateful to each individual who has contributed meaningfully to the growth of this organization.
As BioOne faces the future, I cannot be more pleased that it will do so with someone for whom I have the utmost respect, BioOne’s former chief strategy and operating officer, Lauren Kane. Lauren applied her talents during 13 years on the team. She will lead the organization through challenges that we cannot envision, to places that will one day astound us when looking back.
As I step away from this exemplary organization, I am proud to have had a hand in its growth. I thank the librarians, researchers, societies, museums, institutes and independent presses, and dedicate the milestones BioOne has achieved to its library and publishing community, whose combined efforts are making scientific research more accessible.
May BioOne’s roots continue to spread ever deeper to support the future of bioscience—from Arabidopsis thaliana to Zenaida macroura and every species between. I salute everyone who has made mine such a pleasant journey.
SUSAN SKOMAL, Ph.D.