Introducing Juan Pablo Alperin

Juan Pablo Alperin (BMath, MA) is a multidisciplinary scholar with over eight years of experience in online scholarly publishing. He recently joined the Publishing@SFU faculty, teaching “Technology and the Evolving Forms of Publishing” (PUB 802), “Technology and the Evolving Book” (PUB 401), and Publication of Self in Everyday Life (PUB 101). He is a collaborator on the Public Knowledge Project at Simon Fraser University and kindly agreed to the below interview.

The Basics

Hometown: La Plata, Argentina

Research interests: Scholarly communications, social media metrics (altmetrics), Latin America, publishing technologies

Recent publications: See Google Scholar profile or ImpactStory

Courses:

  • Publication of Self in Everyday Life (PUB 101)
  • Technology and the Evolving Book (PUB 401)
  • MPUB Technology Project (PUB 607)
  • Technology and the Evolving Forms of Publishing (PUB 802)

Professional Life

Publishing@SFU: This is your first semester at SFU, briefly tell us your career path? Where did you start? How did you get here? 

My path to become a professor in publishing was a meandering one. I did an undergraduate in Computer Science at the University of Waterloo, a six month stint teaching and working in high schools across Uganda. Upon returning from Uganda, almost by chance, I ended up doing a Masters in Geography (also at Waterloo), where I worked on a Geographic Information System (GIS) for helping education planners in Peru.

Ready to leave academia and being a professional career, I came across an opportunity that allowed me to develop innovative technologies in a non-corporate setting. I accepted a position as the sole software engineer in a medical journal based out of a research centre in Toronto. The journal was a pioneer in Open Access, powered by the Open Source software Open Journal Systems, and it gave me the opportunity to be creative with software solutions to publishing problems.

After a year of living in Toronto, I returned to my native Argentina and worked as a researcher and systems developer for the makers of Open Journal Systems, the Public Knowledge Project. As I focused more on the research aspect of my work, I started a doctoral program at the Stanford University Graduate School of Education, which lead me to being a professor here at SFU!

Publishing@SFU: If you were going to design a program to be “Juan Pablo”, what courses would be in this program? 

These five courses would probably be a good first semester in the “Juan Pablo” program.

  1. Introduction to Scholarly Publishing: To understand most of what I do it is essential to understand the basics of how we communicate and disseminate research.
  2. Open Knowledge: I am a strong advocate for Open Access and Open Source, and with these “Open” models comes a culture of openness that drives much of the knowledge ecosystem around academia. You can actually already take this course, as a MOOC, offered jointly be SFU, Stanford, UBC, and KNUST.
  3. Global Higher Education: The reason I am motivated to work on scholarly communications is because I feel that strengthening research culture can have a positive impact of systems of higher education around the world that, in turn, can have positive impacts on all sorts of social and economic development. Research is only one output from a system of higher education and anybody wanting to be me would need to have that broader contextual understanding.
  4. Data Analysis and scripting with Python: I love the Python programming language and I find it useful for all sorts of tasks. From Web Scraping, to data analysis, to small automation tasks on your machine. Its useful for programmers and non-programmers alike! I do all my bibliometrics and altmetrics analyses with Python.
  5. Bibliometrics and Altmetrics: I do a lot of analysis of the production, reach, and impact of research. This involves traditional bibliometrics (coauthorships, citation networks, etc.) and more recently altmetrics (social media metrics).

Insights

Greatest professional achievement: I am proud of how I managed to gain a broad understanding of scholarly publishing in Latin America in a very short time.

Most marked characteristic of your teaching style: This might be my brutal honesty. I have high expectations of students and make it clear to them when they are not rising to the challenge. I do my best to do this in an encouraging way, but you have to ask the students how often I succeed.

Qualities you most appreciate in students: This is a little cliché, but I like students to be self-motivated. While I see it as my job to inspire students to care about the subject matter, I appreciate and thrive on their own motivations for learning. I do not like it when students are simply “Doing School”.

Alternative career: I have always had the dream of setting up a small hotel in the Patagonia or somewhere else beautifully isolated. My wife would take care of greeting the guests and making sure they were comfortable, and I would make them delicious sandwiches and espressos.

Lesson to live by: Do not be afraid to say what you think or ask for what you want.

 

Juan Pablo is an instructor in Publishing Studies, with research interests in new media technologies and scholarly publishing, and he leads several research and development projects aimed at improving the quality, impact, and reach of scholarly publishing in Latin America.

His expertise include editorial workflow management, indexing, XML production, software development, scholarly communications, Web technologies, and social media metrics. He complements his professional experiences in publishing with a background in Computer Science (University of Waterloo) and Education (Stanford University).

Juan Pablo can be found on Twitter at @juancommander.