Emily Poznanski joined the Central European University Press (CEU Press) as Director on February 15, 2021, having previously served as Strategic Director at De Gruyter in Berlin. Poznanski played a pivotal role in developing De Gruyter’s Open Access (OA) policies and investment strategies, and worked with universities and funders worldwide to enable new partnerships for De Gruyter.
She has contributed to policy developments across the OA landscape, especially in promoting Humanities and Social Science interests in Europe’s Plan S. Prior to working at De Gruyter, she managed a team of editors, building up a multi-disciplinary OA book and journal program at the Polish digital start-up Versita (later bought by De Gruyter).
We spoke to Poznanski as she steps into her new role at CEU Press. Founded in 1993, the CEU Press established itself as leader in the history of communism and the transitions to democracy. The press recently announced its pioneering Open Access initiative Opening the Future.
This is an edited interview conducted on March 5, 2021.
What was your path to publishing?
Both my grandparents were journalists and editors working in Poland when free press was under intense attack and that was something that they fought hard for throughout their lives. My father, an academic, also ran a printing press so you could say there were a few innate influences.
How do you hope CEU Press will evolve during your leadership tenure?
I would say OA is a clear path for the press. We will be closer to fulfilling our mission as a press if we transition to this model. Another evolution would be to develop our digital ways of working. That may mean for example turning digital on its head, making use of it where its clearly needed but also disposing of formulaic approaches to interacting with digital.
We love printed books and that's not going away, but the clash between digital and traditional publishing no longer exists. Both models complement one another in ways that require even further exploration whether that’s related to CMSs, marketing, sales or commissioning.
I would also like to see an uplift in the number of titles that we publish. Steadily increasing our output will allow us to make more of an impact as a press. We already have some brilliant titles in the backlist and I hope we can highlight and build upon those areas.
While keeping a distinct focus for the press, I would also like to see us publishing in new, exciting areas of research. This is something I aim to do with CEU, as I get closer to the work being done at the university and by the faculty, which should help influence where we should be publishing next.
How do you hope to do lead the transition to Open Access at CEU Press?
At De Gruyter we built a substantial OA book collection but when you look at it as a percentage of the whole - of all books published - it's still quite modest. At CEU Press, we will move faster to OA with the already launched Opening the Future project and other models that we’ll be using.
How is Open Access evolving?
Open Access has grown tremendously in the last few years. First, from the author’s perspective attitudes have really changed. For example, 10 years ago, when we discussed OA for books, authors were primarily concerned about quality standards, that different processes were being applied to OA titles. Today, authors and funders recognize that OA only brings additional benefits, bringing more transparency to the publishing process and greater reach to readers, and the print book doesn’t go away.
From the publisher side, with the transition from a traditional business model to OA, the consideration often comes down to a financial one. How do you make the switch to OA and maintain your top line? For larger traditional academic publishers a simple shift to OA does pose a risk to their revenue streams. But for other publishers, the transition to OA offers a less risky outlook since their costs are covered up front. Academic publishers have been seeing a decline in print book sales for years now so a shift to OA is more secure in the mid-to-long term.
Can you talk about the significance of Plan S for publishing?
Plan S was a good amplifier for the transition to OA. This work had already been started with initiatives like OA 2020, which have been working globally to encourage libraries to shift their acquisitions budget into OA. There was also already a growing number of research funders that mandate OA.
What Plan S did successfully was to put a megaphone to all of that work and to emphasize to publishers the urgency to make the transition to OA. This included ambitious timelines for the transition and stricter guidelines for publishers. I think after Plan S, no publisher could deny the inevitable growth of OA and that forced all publishers to plan a route to get there, if they hadn’t done so already.
That said, Plan S has not been without controversy and teething problems, which will hopefully be resolved over the next few years.
With your roots in Poland, what reflections do you have about CEU Press’s profile as leader in the history of communism and the transitions to democracy?
That focus is one of the reasons why I joined the press. There's a lot of brilliant research being done, both in the region and about the region internationally, and the press’s goal is to bring all of that to life to the fore. That lies quite close to my heart and promoting the work to reach an international audience is an important thing to be working toward. There's also a lot of current political activity in the region and being a press that covers contemporary issues is also significant.
Is there anything you'd like to share with CEU’s global community?
I look forward to getting to know the faculty and staff over the next months. I think an understanding and good communication between the university and the press is really important to cultivate. I’d like the relationship to be bilateral - for CEU Press to be getting ideas and inspirations from the research being done at CEU, and also for the press to become a useful resource for the faculty in that we have publishing experience to share, from OA publishing and books, to guidance regarding publishing policies and impact. The press can also be a support regarding research output, dissemination and how to get work most widely read.
And of course, what are you're reading right now?
Post War by Tony Judt, which covers post war European history. It’s a fantastic book, though it’s a long read!