Moving into Publishing: External Affairs and Policy with Priya

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Following ten years in the pharmaceutical industry in a variety of government affairs and policy roles, Priya joined Taylor & Francis (T&F) in 2019 as Director of External Affairs and Policy. Priya leads T&F’s global policy positioning around issues including funding frameworks in Open Access. Priya is also an active contributor to developing policy positions of T&F trade bodies. Prior to joining T&F, Priya’s previous roles included access to global health products within GSK’s Access Medicines portfolio and providing government affairs support on access issues. Priya’s past experience incudes working at the World Health Organization and the Department of Health.

To mark Work in Publishing week, we asked Priya Madina, Director of External Affairs and Policy at Taylor & Francis, some questions about her decision to move into the publishing industry.

Hello! First up can you tell us a little about your current role at Taylor & Francis? What does it involve?

I am T&F’s Director of External Affairs & Policy. My team’s role is to positively influence policies around research and scholarly communication through T&F’s values-led approach. We do this in a variety of ways, including horizon scanning the policy landscape, external advocacy and outreach and preparing public positions and insightful commentary. Our audiences are funders, governments, policymakers, researchers, and learned societies. We also aim to positively influence the external environment and advocate for change where appropriate.

Where were you working before you moved into publishing? Which transferrable skills from your previous role overlap with your current role?

I worked at GSK, the UK’s largest pharma company, for ten years. Transferable skills are analysing government policies, forming compelling evidence based arguments, developing company positions and advocating for change across a commercial sector. Also working closely with trade bodies and managing a high performing team.

Why did you want to move into publishing?

Coming to the end of a decade at GSK I was beginning to think it was time for a new opportunity and I was also keen to take on a more commercial facing role whilst still preferably in a research style environment. I was also keen to change industries to broaden my scope having been in healthcare for most of my career. Having studied humanities, academic research is an area that has always been a huge interest. Publishing is so intrinsically linked to so many big topics such as R&D, higher education funding, open access. I wanted to be involved in policy making and advocacy around these critical issues.

I was surprised by the breadth and depth of the issues facing the academic sector and how many different areas the publishing industry sits across. 

How easy was it to adapt to working in publishing? Were there any surprises and did you find that you brought a different perspective, having worked in another industry?

The main surprise for me was actually how easy it was to adapt and how transferable my skillset was. In addition some of the broad scale issues such as showcasing the value of the commercial sector was a common theme. I was surprised by the breadth and depth of the issues facing the academic sector and how many different areas the publishing industry sits across. I think I can definitely bring a different perspective in terms of what I have seen work well and not so well and also how I have seen different team structures operate, particularly complex matrix teams across large organisations.

Have you been mentored and, if so, how has it supported your career progression?

I’ve had various mentors both inside and outside work throughout my career. I have found them enormously helpful in giving me the confidence to take on new stretch roles and force me out of my comfort zone. I have since decided to become a mentor myself to try and give others the same experience at the early stages of their careers.

What would you say to anyone reading this who is considering a career change and is interested in working in publishing?

I would say – go for it! Publishing is a fascinating and diverse sector of skillsets and experiences and if you enjoy critical thinking and working on complex knotty issues with lots of very intelligent, committed and inspiring people, then it’s definitely the place for you!

This interview with Priya Madina was written for Work in Publishing week for