It was 2016 when Filippo Sposini finished his master’s in psychology in Italy. Despite completing his degree, he felt there was still so much more to learn about the discipline. He wondered why Psychology had been so relevant in the last century, and also about the different methods, problems, and theories of psychological disciplines. In front of a computer, searching for PhD programs which would help him to find the answers he was looking for, Filippo started a journey that would bring him to Canada and, eventually, to work in the Publishing Development Division of one of the leading scientific publishers in the world.
One of Sposini’s favourite memories about studying for a PhD in the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology is “Normality: A Critical History” a class he designed and taught during his last year in the program. He distinctly remembers showing up at University College, one of the most representative buildings of the University of Toronto: “It was really a great feeling that after so many efforts and coming such a long way, you get the chance to teach at a very great university your own piece, something you've worked on, something you know, something you're passionate about.” He has followed this call back at home where, besides his editorial job, he also teaches psychology courses at The Umbra Institute, an Italian institution that welcomes students from the U.S. and around the world who want to take college courses abroad.
It is well known the path to getting a PhD is long and requires much effort, but Filippo’s was also shaped by the pandemic which took us all by surprise. The day he presented his specialization exam, Canada went into full lockdown, and Europe --particularly Italy-- was enduring some of the worst scenarios at the time. This had a significant impact on international students, but also consequences in the academic field, which required quick thinking to change plans regarding dissertation topics or research trips based on which primary sources could be available. Despite this adverse scenario, Filippo persisted and proposed a new dissertation topic which explored the local origins and global consequences of the certification of insanity in the British Empire. This is why, when asked about his biggest accomplishment during his time at the IHPST, he can sum it up with just one word: “persistence”. This persistence paid off, as a book based on his research has been recently published by Palgrave McMillan.
Writing has been central in Filippo’s career, but writing in English for academic readers was a new learning path. When he started the program his writing style “was sort of more geared towards the European way of structuring and writing essays” but it changed thanks to the support of professors Mark Solovey and Marga Vicedo: “It was tough feedback at the beginning. I would submit an essay, like a 10,000-word essay, and I would get 10,000-word feedback from them. But it was extremely important…[because] eventually when I got to the dissertation phase, I felt much more confident…I felt much more at ease.” The IHPST, Filippo remembers, was a place in which he not only improved his English writing, but it was also a space which allowed him to participate in class with confidence, bringing his perspective while hearing from professors and colleagues from diverse backgrounds: “the Institute gave me the chance to grow intellectually, to learn about different things, to get to grip with the historical method, to learn how historians think, and at the same time, not losing track of philosophical questions.”
All these experiences paved the path for Filippo’s current professional activities. When he finished his PhD, he had published some articles in The History of Behavioral Sciences, The Canadian Medical Association Journal, and The Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, which helped him to acquire some knowledge on how the academic publishing industry worked in English and in more than one discipline. He is now working for two big journals: Frontiers in Public Health and Frontiers in Oncology, but he has also worked on selecting editorial boards for Frontiers in Psychiatry. As part of his job, Sposini gets in touch with scholars from different parts of the world and makes sure they have the right qualifications to be part of the team of experts for each title.
When applying for jobs in the publishing industry Filippo, once again, started asking questions about how the field worked: “What are these publishers? What do they do, how do they make money? What kind of systems system do they have in place?” and the same curiosity that made him to apply for a PhD in Canada was useful to prepare for job interviews. However, he also gives credit to the type of questions he came up with to his formation as a PhD student “It is specially related to the IHPST, where we do ask questions about how science is produced on an everyday basis and what are the different factors that affect scientific production.”
Working in the scientific publishing industry, was a significant transition from the academic field. However, he is still in touch with scholars and researchers from all over the world, and he keeps thinking about the production of knowledge daily. Working in the publishing development division he is currently focused on creating content; he is also in charge of developing special collections and working with editorial boards. He feels that, in a sense, “I am working in the same area, talking pretty much with the same people, scholars, and researchers. I am familiar with their priorities, especially the priorities of young scholars in different jurisdictions, so that has remained the same."