All the good things. Farewell message from the former Editor-in-Chief

Newsletter

There is an English idiom that reads, “all good things must come to an end”. The Cambridge Dictionary explains that it is said when one accepts “that even enjoyable experiences cannot last forever.” The emphasis is on the second part of the saying, on the inescapable conclusion that even the most enriching experiences must have.

This is my last editorial as editor-in-chief of both the MCAA Newsletter and IRRADIUM. Devoting these lines to the “must come to an end” part would be a reasonable expectation. However, I will focus on the first part of the idiom and highlight a few of the many positive experiences I had during my enjoyable tenure.

Gian Maria Greco

Let me begin with a bit of history. Bear with me. I promise there is a point, and it is not self-praise. I have been interested in communication for a very long time. As a teenager, I worked at the news division of a local radio station. Around the same time, my high school launched a communication campaign to be run by students, aimed at encouraging enrolment from local middle schools. I eagerly signed up, initially because it gave me a formal exemption from attending classes (oh well…). As an undergraduate, I established a scholarly journal run by students, while flirting with communication and advertising in entry-level (mostly non-paid) positions. I also started to collaborate with the now-defunct SWIF (Sito Web Italiano per la Filosofia - Italian Website for Philosophy), a website that pioneered scholarly communication on the web (it’s the late 1990s). I began as a volunteer in one of their sections and left almost a decade later as the managing editor of the whole project. Henceforth began a long list of experiences, as well as formal and informal training on different aspects of communication, albeit too long to list on this brief trip down memory lane. I also began to develop an interest in accessibility, mainly in how to make communication accessible, which grew into my major scholarly and professional focus. Again, too many experiences to list here as well. Long story short, at one point I left academia and made accessible communication my profession. That was until 2017, when I returned thanks to an MSCA fellowship. This is when I joined the MCAA.

Upon becoming an MCAA member, I joined the Spain-Portugal Chapter because my MSCA fellowship was based in Spain. At the time, the Spain-Portugal Chapter published a newsletter for its members. It was just my cup of tea to volunteer and take care of its publication. At the 2018 MCAA Annual Conference in Leuven, I attended a meeting of the Communication Working Group (WG) and expressed a critique about the MCAA Newsletter and IRRADIUM. A few days later, Valentina Ferro and Calum MacKichan, who were running the Leuven meeting, reached out and asked me to coordinate the work of the two publications. Something like “thanks for the constructive criticism. Here’s your chance to do something and not just talk about it”. I had been volunteered, as a friend of mine would say.

“Coordinate” may not be the right word. At the time, the two outlets were produced by an external company with little MCAA supervision. There was actually nothing to coordinate and everything to build from scratch. I began slowly taking steps to make the MCAA totally autonomous in its production of the two publications, raising their profile, and offering more to our members. Indeed, this very issue of the MCAA Newsletter you are reading has been entirely produced by its editorial board, as was the case for the June 2021 issue. Four years have flown by, though much was accomplished during my tenure. Just to name a few of the things I’m most proud of: establishing an internal team (which later became the editorial board), drafting the internal regulations for responsibility and accountability, devising a workflow, increasingly shifting control of the production process and content from the external company over to the internal team, producing the guidelines for authors, introducing an online submission form, launching special issues and thematic sections, expanding the types of articles, introducing a regular section to host articles written by members on their research, registering the two outlets as official publications with ISSNs, starting to catalogue each issue in the Royal Library of Belgium, coordinating the re-design of the MCAA Newsletter layout to increase its readability and accessibility and of the PDF files to make them screen reader-friendly, and devoting a member of the editorial board to check for biases and discrimination in language and images.

Counting from “As a teenager I worked” to “language and images” is 613 words. It’s a rather long sequence of “I did this” and “I did that”. Here is the catch. That “I” is a lie. That “I” is a “we”. We are surrounded by people who, for better or for worse, play a decisive part in our outcomes. I am by no means denying the value that one’s own will and commitment play in one’s life. But it’s just one part of the picture, at least in my own experience. Both in the instances mentioned above as well as in those not mentioned, I was never alone. From the time I joined the news division of the local radio station onwards, I had people who welcomed me, supported me, helped me, challenged me. I had people who made me a better scholar, a better professional, a better person. I was part of a team.

My MCAA history as the editor-in-chief of IRRADIUM and the MCAA Newsletter is first and foremost a history of people. The MCAA members who welcomed me, supported me, helped me and challenged me. The many MCAA members I met over my four-year tenure. There are far too many to list them all, but a few thanks are in order anyway.

I am grateful to all the MCAA members who expressed their support by authoring an article, sitting for or carrying out an interview, sharing news, and providing feedback as readers. In doing so they made me work harder, correct the course, and allowed the publications to flourish. My thanks to the members of the past two MCAA Boards and those of the current one, with whom I now have the honour and responsibility to serve our association.

I am grateful to Valentina Ferro for challenging me to take on this journey and for her proactive assistance, especially during the first few months, as well as to Valerie Bentivegna, who was Communication WG Chair for most of my tenure and placed her trust in me constantly. I am profoundly indebted to Ruben Riosa. It would take pages to detail how much he has contributed to bringing the MCAA Newsletter and IRRADIUM to their current standing. Ruben joined the team not long after I started, and since day one he has worked passionately and skilfully. After a while, it seemed only natural to ask the MCAA Board to create the position of managing editor and to appoint him.

My deepest gratitude goes to Christina, Pradeep, Sasha, Sugosh, and Yahaya. Together with Ruben, they are the team members with whom I shared this journey. They supported me, challenged me, and did not spare any criticism. The few accomplishments I listed above and the many more gone unsaid are the results of a group effort, and I was lucky to be part of such a splendid group which, over the last few months, has grown considerably. Many MCAA members answered the recent call to join the editorial board. Far more than expected, to the point that we had to turn down quite a few. It may be vanity speaking, but I’d like to think that such an enthusiastic response is evidence of that group effort. All the successes I have experienced over the past four years are “we” successes. The failures are mine and mine alone, for people’s support is only as good as one’s ability to harness it.

“All the good things…” is the title of the series finale of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The plot device is what is called a “spatial anomaly” in the Star Trek narrative. Jean-Luc Picard attempts to deal with the anomaly only to find himself caught in a paradox: his very actions to stop the anomaly are what caused it in the first place. He realises the paradox and brilliantly saves the day. Towards the end, Picard and Q discuss the moral of the story: in order to flourish and evolve, one needs to be open to options that one had never considered.

A year ago, I started to reflect on the idea of resigning. I felt the team and the two publications had reached a certain level of maturity and were in need of opening up to new options that long-term leadership could hinder. I shared my thoughts with the team and received plenty of support. So here I am, resigning from my position two years before the mandate’s end, ready to take up new challenges within the MCAA, and fully conscious of all the good things I gained and all the good people that enriched me over these past few years. I am confident in my decision because of the confidence I have in this group of people who will now have exposure to fresh ideas under the guidance of Sasha as their new editor-in-chief. I am confident that such an opening will allow the MCAA Newsletter and IRRADIUM to flourish even further, and with them, the whole association.

Gian Maria Greco
MCAA Newsletter, outgoing Editor-in-Chief
gianmaria.greco@mariecuriealumni.eu
Twitter: @GianMariaGreco

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