Editor's note: This interview with Elsevier Publisher Ms. Jane Ryley and Dental Abstracts Editor Dr. Douglas Berkey was conducted by Dr. Joseph C Harris.
I cannot count the number of times a Fellow of the Academy or even a non-member has expressed to me how much he or she treasures our official publication, Dental Abstracts. Many people see Dental Abstracts as one of the top benefits of Fellowship in the Pierre Fauchard Academy.
In September 2010, I had the opportunity to interview two of the people responsible for the quality and content of Dental Abstracts. Dr. Douglas Berkey, the Editor-in-Chief, and Ms. Jane Ryley, the Senior Publisher, were both kind enough to take time out from their busy schedules to chat with me about our Journal and demystify the process of what is involved in creating an issue of the much-respected publication.
-- Dr. Joseph C Harris
Publisher Jane Ryley
Dr. Joe Harris (JH): Tell us about yourself and your involvement with publishing.
Jane Ryley (JR): I am Canadian, and even though I have been living in the United States for about 28 years, I maintain my Canadian citizenship. I have worked in publishing my entire career; I started in 1978 and have been in the business in various roles ever since. I have had jobs in sales, marketing, and advertising, and on the technical side, I have been involved in acquisitions of textbooks and did several stints in working with journals. I managed our conferences for about 5 years, and for the past 11 years, I have been a publisher for Elsevier, handling our dental portfolio of journals. Of course, Dental Abstracts and Dental World are a very significant part of that portfolio.
JH: When you say you managed conferences, are you referring to continuing education conferences or conferences related to the mechanics of publishing?
JR: They are actually continuing education conferences. I have done them in nursing and in medicine and dentistry as well.
JH: How did you become an employee of the Elsevier team?
JR: I was hired because of my publishing experience, which included being the marketing manager for Mosby journals from 1985 to 1991. So it was really a matter of background and experience.
JH: What are the responsibilities of a Senior Publisher?
JR: I view my position as an administrator. I touch all aspects of the publishing portfolio, which includes keeping an eye on the circulation of the journals, the advertising for the journals, and the marketing for the journals, particularly when a journal has a society affiliation, which Dental Abstracts does, of course, with the Pierre Fauchard Academy. I maintain relationships not only with Judith Kozal and the Board members but with the Academy President and Mark Stanley, the editor of Dental World. And my job entails just making sure on a day-to-day basis that things work very smoothly.
JH: Is Elsevier compartmentalized between journals and textbooks, or do the staff's duties cross between both?
JR: Like most corporations, we go through transitions. Currently books and journals are handled in two separate operating units. We publish more than 700 journals, and more than 1700 books currently are being actively published and sold.
JH: What is the difference between Dental Abstracts and Dental World?
JR: Dental Abstracts is what we would call the parent journal. It is a bimonthly journal that contains abstracts of all of the articles the editor has selected to be abstracted. Within Dental Abstracts is Dental World, the Pierre Fauchard newsletter edited by Mark Stanley. It contains Pierre Fauchard Academy news, events, and perspectives from a global standpoint of what is going on in Academy Chapters around the world. So Dental World is a part of Dental Abstracts.
JH: How many organizations are contracted to receive Dental Abstracts for their membership?
JR: Only the Pierre Fauchard Academy sends Dental Abstracts to its membership. However, we do have some non-member subscribers, and of course, a lot of institutions, such as medical libraries and dental schools, subscribe to the Journal. In most cases the institutions purchase Dental Abstracts as part of a package. A large complex with a nursing school, medical school, and dental school might order many different journals, but a dental school might order just our dental journals. So the journal is sold in a variety of ways. But the Pierre Fauchard Academy is the only Society we are affiliated with on Dental Abstracts.
JH: How many copies of Dental Abstracts are produced per issue?
JR: We produce around 7000 per issue, of which around 5700 are sent to the Fellows of the Pierre Fauchard Academy.
JH: Can you walk me through the creation of a typical issue of Dental Abstracts from inception to delivery to the doorstep?
JR: Sure. Typically we are on about a 12-week schedule. First, Dr. Doug Berkey, the editor of Dental Abstracts, searches the literature in dentistry. When he became Editor a few years ago we had a set list of journals from which he would choose articles. He expanded that list to bring in articles that were more and more topical. Doug decides which articles should be abstracted based on their interest to the membership and to other subscribers of the Journal, and he conveys this list of articles to someone we employ as an abstractor. She takes the articles and culls them down to their really significant aspects. At the same time the editor of Dental World is pulling together the newsletter.
Once the abstracts have been written, they are given to our issue manager, who is an Elsevier employee. A compositor typesets the Journal and proofs are issued that go to the editors of Dental Abstracts and Dental World. Once corrections are made they are finalized with the compositor. When everything is in place we put the issue together and send it to the printer. Once it is printed it is distributed through all of the mail channels, and that is when it arrives at the doorsteps of the Fellows.
JH: What is the most difficult aspect of creating a Dental Abstracts issue?
JR: It really goes extremely smoothly. Since I have worked on the Journal I have not experienced any significant delays.
JH: What is the easiest aspect of creating an issue?
JR: What is easy is that I really, really enjoy the people I work with on the Journal. It is a real pleasure for me.
JH: What is the strangest or most unique request or situation you have run into?
JR: (laughs) That's a really good question. That's going to require a bit of thought. Really, nothing--and in fact, the evolution of Dental World is quite interesting. Because Mark Stanley is very proactive, we are going to use a new glossy paper stock, which I think gives the publication a better look. We are making plans to publish Dental World in full color. I think that we are taking some positive steps that will make Dental World more valuable to its Fellows. So I haven't received any strange requests at all.
JH: Dental Abstracts is published in Spanish. Are there any plans for publishing it in other languages?
JR: I haven't really had any discussions about publishing it in other languages, but Chinese seems to be pretty high on the radar screen. I am definitely interested in doing that if the right opportunity presents itself.
JH: Was Dental Abstracts initially published in Spanish along with the English version?
JR: It was not initially published in Spanish. It has only been published in Spanish for about 10 or 15 years. Basically, we were approached by a dentist/publisher in Mexico who had an interest in publishing it in Spanish. It has worked out quite well. Unfortunately, he passed away. He was a dentist trained in the United States. He went back to Mexico and practiced as a dentist but also decided that he wanted to take a role in publishing. That is how that business arrangement got started.
JH: Is the online version of Dental Abstracts different from the hard copy version?
JR: No. The benefit of publishing it online, which is something to keep in mind for the future, is that a lot can be done in terms of enhancements. For example, you can do videos, podcasting, and all sorts of things. That is actually a goal of mine, to make the online version of Dental Abstracts even more robust than the print version.
JH: Will Dental Abstracts eventually be available exclusively online?
JR: That is the million dollar question in publishing at the moment. I don't know that I have set answer. Our current business model is that if you are a subscriber, either as a benefit of being a Fellow of the Pierre Fauchard Academy or as an individual non-member, you get print and online access. The jury is still out in the publishing world in terms of an online-only model. Some journals are trying it, but the challenge we run into with most journals is that the demographic of people reading it is fairly mixed. We have older Fellows who really want the print version. They like to put it in their briefcase and get on a plane and read it. Whereas others, who tend to be a younger crowd, only want it online; they say. "Don't bother me with a print copy!" So I don't think we have a hard and fast solution in the publishing world at this point. At least for the time being, we will continue with the model of the bundle of the print and the online versions. However, I do believe a day will come when we go to a different business model based on how people want their content delivered.
JH: Can we expect anything new or different from Dental Abstracts in the future?
JR: We will continue to search for journals that have value for the subscriber. Our challenge is to ensure that the articles we are abstracting are of significant interest to the Fellowship. We need to maintain a close relationship with the Academy and ensure that we are serving the needs of the Fellows, including those who are specialists. We want to provide the right information not only to the general practitioners but also to the specialists.
Dr. Douglas Berkey
Dr. Joe Harris (JH): Could you briefly give us a little information about yourself? Where were you born and raised? What is your educational background?
Dr. Douglas Berkey (DB): I was born and raised in Los Angeles. I attended Brigham Young University for my undergraduate studies and then I went to the University of Louisville for dental school. I was in private practice for 3 years in northern Idaho in a town called Sandpoint. Then I attended the University of Minnesota, where I earned a Master's degree in Public Health and also a Master of Science degree. From there I headed out to Denver, where I spent the lion's share of my career. I was at the dental school at the University of North Carolina from 2000 to 2002, but the remainder of my time has been spent at the University of Colorado.
JH: What attracted you to the profession of dentistry?
DB: I grew up thinking about how I might leave a legacy, how I might be able to give to others, and dentistry was just a real good fit. My dad encouraged me to think about it. We had a family dentist who was very happy with the profession, and he also always encouraged us to think about dentistry as a profession.
JH: Does your interest in scientific literature date to the time you became a dentist, or did it arise at a later time?
DB: Well, I was in private practice for three years, and then I went back to get my Masters in Public Health. One of the first courses I had was a class in epidemiology, and it was just fascinating. I loved it. I loved learning about how to review and analyze the literature, which generated interest in doing my own research and other things as well such as serving on the editorial boards of several different dental research publications. So probably the initial interest was generated from my training in my master's degree program.
JH: I took over my father's practice, and because of the length of time he was in practice, many of the patients I inherited from him were in or approaching the geriatric stage of life. Based on my experience and the protocols and mindset of treating these patients, I would say that geriatrics is just as valid a specialty as, for example, pediatrics. You are the Dental Director of Total Longterm Care of Colorado and the Past Chair of the Gerontology and Geriatrics Education Section for the American Dental Education Association. What do you think about geriatrics as a dental specialty?
DB: I completed my one-year Masters in Public Health and felt like I wanted to do an additional graduate program. I had some very visionary mentors at the faculty in Minnesota, Dr. Larry Meskin and Dr. Ralph Katz, who suggested that I consider Gerontology and Geriatrics. I followed their lead, not really knowing what I was getting myself into, but it sounded like a good thing to do. I actually started a program that was not officially approved by the University of Minnesota until I was about five or six months into it, but it turned out to be the first Master of Science degree in Geriatric Dentistry anywhere in the world. So that was a two-year program. Then I participated in an additional two year fellowship at the Veterans Administration in Geriatric Dentistry. The more that I study and become involved with geriatric dentistry, the more I become convinced that this subject has great depth and breadth requiring an expertise on all phases and aspects of dentistry, from medicine to the clinical art and science of doing restorations, risk assessments, and the like. So definitely if not specialty status, then additional postgraduate training in geriatric dentistry is highly recommended.
JH: When did you become a Fellow of the Pierre Fauchard Academy?
DB: It will be happening in Orlando this October. I have been Editor of the Journal for a couple of years at least, and I have been doing it as a non-member of the Academy. I really believe it to be a honor being inducted in the Academy .
JH: How and when did you become affiliated with Dental Abstracts?
DB: I was asked to be on the Editorial Board maybe 5 or 6 years ago. At that time the editor of the Journal, Larry Meskin, who also had served as Editor of the ADA Journal, encouraged me to be on his Dental Abstracts Editorial Board. He left Minnesota to become Dean of the Dental School in Colorado, and from there went on to do other things, like being Editor of the ADA Journal. That's how I initially got on board with it.
JH: When did you become Editor-in-Chief of Dental Abstracts?
DB: Three years ago Larry Meskin had a heart attack and passed away rather suddenly. The managers who coordinate the journal at Elsevier publishing asked me to assume his position.
JH: The Dental Abstracts Editorial Board is quite a diverse group, which is probably one its main strengths. Are your duties as Editor-in-Chief mainly organizational, or do you actively edit the articles?
DB: When I first started, Dr. Richard Pena was selecting abstract-worthy articles from different journals and somebody else did the abstracting. Then I was involved in reviewing all of the abstracts to ensure they were done correctly, to see if I had any changes or edits, and to oversee aspects of the journal such as the number of journals that were represented and those kinds of things. But in the past year and a half or so I have actually been the one who goes through those 100 dental journals to select the most interesting and relevant articles to be abstracted. I make those choices every two months and send them off to a technical medical writer, who abstracts them and sends the abstracts back to me for my review. I am also involved with soliciting the commentary found in every journal.
JH: Articles that you choose have already been through the editorial process before being published in Dental Abstracts. Do you further edit the already edited articles, and if so, what is the reason for the further treatment ?
DB: I would say that the lion's share are from peer-reviewed journals, or if not peer reviewed, at least from journals that have a pretty good reputation, and I am confident that there is credence and some reliability and validity to what they are saying.
JH: How do you go about choosing Editorial Board members?
DB: The Editorial Board that currently exists has pretty much stayed stable since I was on the Board myself. One or two persons may have been added, but most of the persons on the Board were members prior to my selection as Editor-in-Chief, and I knew most of them before I became Editor-In-Chief. I think they represent a good swath of the dental profession, and not only in the United States; we also have very good international representation, with persons from Mexico, China, and Canada on the Board.
JH: Can you walk us through the evolution of an issue of Dental Abstracts from its inception to its publication, including timelines?
DB: A number of steps and individuals are involved. I review more than 100 different dentistry-related journals every other month and select between 40 and 50 articles to be abstracted. I look for relevancy as it relates to the PFA readership and also try to include a variety of different topics and dimensions that affect the profession both domestically and internationally. When reviewing data-based articles, I seek out articles that present scientifically reliable and valid findings. One of the challenges I face after selecting the articles is to decide whether figures and/or tables from the original publication should be included, and if so, which of the tables and figures would help capture the essence of the article. I also invite key individuals to write commentaries for each issue that address important trends, resources, and perspectives within dentistry. After selecting the manuscripts, I send them to Elaine Steinborn, our outstanding medical writer, who takes about a month to abstract these 40+ manuscripts. The manuscripts are then sent for typesetting and returned to me for final review and/or clarification. The author who wrote the commentary will be asked to review the galley proof and answer any queries that may have arisen. Then the Journal is finalized and appears online several days before the printed Journal is dispatched. Except for manuscripts that are identified as "fast track" manuscripts, the period between my selection of the journal articles and final publication is approximately four months. The Dental World inserts are included in issues 2, 3, 4, and 6.
JH: Are there disagreements among the Board members because of an article's content or perhaps because a particular article does not seem to flow with the theme or sequence of a particular issue?
DB: I haven't had any disagreements yet. (laughs)
JH: Do receive much feedback from the Fellowship of the Academy?
DB: I haven't received much feedback yet. Part of my desire to connect with the Pierre Fauchard Academy and the reason I will be going to Orlando this year is to seek whatever feedback I can regarding the Journal. I have received feedback indirectly from the publisher, who interacts with the Academy.
JH: Does the Editorial Board routinely have conference calls, or do you generally confer with the members on an individual basis?
DB: Once a year we try to have a relatively short hour and a half meeting where we discuss the Journal, where it is going, and any suggestions. When I have individual needs I seek participation from individual Editorial Board members. However, the responsibility is not very time intensive for most of the Board.
JH: So do they aid you in determining which articles will be used, or is it your call?
DB: That is my call, but I ask them to let me know if they come across any articles they think are particularly well suited to Dental Abstracts.
JH: Is obtaining permission to reprint articles from the various journals problematic? Do you need to get permission for every article that you use, or to you have a pre-existing understanding with the various journals and abstracts that allows you to use what they publish within their pages without asking for permission for a specific piece?
DB: Certain journals are slow to respond, and some have not agreed to have things done. A few of the Quintessence journals may decline to grant permission for some of the reprints. But most of them are available.
JH: What type of timelines are you dealing with? Much of what is published in Dental Abstracts is very timely and pertinent information, such as the recent article on H1N1. Do you have the flexibility to move things around the queue as you deem necessary?
DB: Yes. Using the topic of H1N1 as an example, we can move a timely article ahead by maybe one issue. Elsevier has a fast-track process option in the production of Dental Abstracts, so we can speed things along if needed.
JH: Having an international editorial staff, do see a difference in concerns in the dental profession from, let us say, a colleague in Beijing or Canada or Mexico than here in the United States?
DB: They have not voiced that yet, but I am certainly very sensitive to that issue. In the selection of the articles I try not to dwell totally on the U.S subscribership because of the international flavor of the readership. I have not judged that to be a critical issue at this point but one that remains on my radar screen.
JH: The Pierre Fauchard Academy is an international organization with sections on every continent in the world. Through my travels and correspondence with the Academy's overseas Fellows, one of the constants is how they treasure their copy of Dental Abstracts. Because of cultural factors, a doctor in China may be more concerned about oral cancer and smoking cessation compared with a doctor in Mexico, whose concern may be more directed to the deleterious effects of diabetes on the periodontal structures. When preparing an issue of Dental Abstracts, are you cognizant of having a large international readership, or are your efforts more directed toward the concerns of American and Canadian dentists?
DB: That is very intentional on my part (laughs). I have articles on melanoma and art techniques and other things to try to appeal to a variety of readers.
JH: Do receive submissions for publication directly from dentists?
DB: I do, but because we do not abstract direct articles, I tell them they have to submit it to a peer-reviewed journal.
JH: Is there any one article or issue of Dental Abstracts that you consider a personal favorite?
DB: (Laughs) Probably not at this point. It's kind of fun for me to select the articles and review them and eventually see the finished product. I am pleased with what I see. It is very professional on all sorts of levels. When I am asked to do the final edit, I am surprised to see how few things I come up with personally (chuckles).
JH: The Pierre Fauchard Academy was founded by Dr. Elmer Best in 1936. One of his main reasons for establishing the Academy was because of the proprietary nature of dental publications. He wanted to excise the commercial interests that drove the dental publications of the day and re-establish the dental profession as the controllers of the literature. Dental Abstracts most certainly maintains the spirit of the Academy's mission statement.
DB: I am happy to hear that. That is exactly right.
JH: Do you see the day of printed material being a thing of the past? The problem with the Internet is that the peer-review process can be bypassed. You really do not know what the sources are.
DB: I think that is a possibility. However, I am so much of a traditionalist that I just like hard copy. If that does happen I hope it happens way down the road (laughs). My son is attending dental school now, and he has electronic access to all of his books. He misses the books he had before so much that he winds up printing many things out so that he can have them in hard copy and read them that way versus reading off his computer.
JH: What can we expect from Dental Abstracts in the future?
DB: I think it is very advantageous that Dental Abstracts is published through Elsevier publishing, which I think is the best publisher internationally anywhere. Because Elsevier is so professional and so cutting edge, I think they will be out there looking for new options and new ways of providing content. I am sure new changes are coming about soon, so stay tuned.