Tres Smith opened the session by relating someone's comment that outsourcing shifts the bills from the payroll section to the invoice section. Outsourcing is perceived by many as a poison used to kill union jobs--thousands of autoworkers across North America have gone on strike over the issue of outsourcing. However, the AESE session on outsourcing was not militant. Instead, the three presentations focused on: (1) first steps toward outsourced editing by the USGS, (2) outsourced editing as part of an efficient production design at the AAPG Bulletin, and (3) a service-provider's experience with editing publications of the Ontario Geological Survey.
The USGS wants to have book editing, review, processing, artwork, and production contracted to a nongovernment agency. The survey's experience with the ensuing Request for Proposals (RFP) did not build confidence in the quality or cost controls it could expect from the companies that responded. Defining expectations to a potential service provider is tricky business, and detailed specifications may escape the notice of the bidders. This first stage of outsourcing, making contact with an acceptable contractor, may be the most difficult.
For Carol Christopher at AAPG Publications, that early experience has evolved into a smooth system of outsourcing the production phases of the AAPG Bulletin. For AAPG, the advantages of outsourcing include: (1) the ability to hire specialists, (2) upgrading equipment becomes the responsibility of the contractor, (3) the contractor is cost competitive, and (4) the contractor can be held to a consistent production schedule, which is vital to a monthly journal. Disadvantages include: (1) generation of extra records, (2) abundant long-distance communication and air freight, and (3) the contractor may lack geotechnical resources in comparison to a large geoscience organization. For AAPG, the pros win out.
Caroline Hawson presented the service-provider's point of view. Caroline has a multi-year contract to manage editing of the Ontario Geological Survey's compendium volume. Despite facing an RFP that was 4 inches thick, she was able to bid successfully on the job and then carry out the assignment with equal success. Caroline works from her home and has editors in Ottawa, St. Catherines, and Sudbury, Ontario. Although budgets are tight and routes of communication (couriers, telephones, faxes) are expensive, it is communication that makes this company work. For Caroline, the true measure of her success as a service provider is that it's fun.