Researcher alumni case studies: scientific publishing

Posted in: Alumni Case Study - Researchers, For PhDs, Sector Insight, Subject Related Careers

What do you do day-to-day?

I work at IOP Publishing as an Associate Editor of three scientific journals: 2D Materials, Nanotechnology and Multifunctional Materials. I am essentially the person who accepts or rejects scientific articles and deals with happy and, most of the time, disappointed researchers.

I like to think of myself as a critical reader who prepares a scientific article for publication. Every day, I receive several manuscripts. Before I decide whether in principle the article is suitable for publication in my journals, I consider some conceptual and technical aspects of the scientific publishing. For example, I consider whether (i) the article matches the scope and aim of my journal, (ii) the work indeed represents scientific progress and (iii) the scientific evidence supports the author’s conclusion. Sometimes, I struggle to understand a paper and its scientific implications. In that case, I ask experienced academics to help me make a difficult decision. I oversee the peer-review process from start to finish, and once the comments are in hand, I decide to reject or accept the paper and communicate the decision to the authors. Of course, this is not a black and white process and there are endless scenarios that an Editor might need to manage.

How did you get into your current job?

I had always thought that editors were cold-hearted people similar to robots programmed to disappoint scientists. Of course, I did not have any idea of what I was talking about. I have now learned that Scientific, Technical and Medical (STM) Editors and Publishers are passionate scientists who are simply not interested in an academic career.

I have always loved reading scientific journals as a means to explore different aspects of chemistry, material science and nanotechnology. I am a chemist by training. After a PhD in Organometallic Chemistry and NMR, I was offered the opportunity to join the group of Prof. Sofia Pascu at the University of Bath. Working as a Research Associate at the Department of Chemistry was a fantastic experience. After a few years, however, I felt as if being a post-doc was limiting the field of science I could be exposed to. I would often find myself reading papers outside my area of research. I wanted to explore different aspects of science on a daily basis and, in this sense, developing a career as a scientific editor felt like a natural career choice.

In 2016 during a conference, I met an Editor of a big and renowned publishing house and I asked him “how do I become an editor”? I spent the following hour talking to this person. I shared with him my ideas and how I felt about scientific publishing. Two hours later, I received an email from his company and got my first interview, which was an epic failure. I soon realised that being passionate about science was not enough. There were many aspects of the STM publishing I had to study. It took me a few months and another couple of interviews, but eventually, I was offered my first position in the STM publishing industry. I started working as a Journal Launch Specialist for Frontiers Publishing House in London and moved to IOP Publishing this past June.

How do you use the skills from research?

Over the course of their academic career, post-docs certainly develop a set of transferable skills, which are very important for scientific publishers. As a senior member of my research group, I was involved in many aspects of the publishing process: writing, editing, proofreading and submitting articles for scientific publications. I was also familiar with concepts such as author/ethical guidelines, plagiarism and peer review.

Regardless the experience that a researcher may gain, the most important aspect of the job of an Editor is to recognise the novelty in a piece of scientific work, whether the science is sound and what the likely implications and future perspectives are. This is something only my PhD and post-doctoral experience could have given me.

Where researchers would look to find similar jobs to yours?

Talk to Editors and Publishers! Find them at a conference and career fairs and ask for advice. Take their business card and send a follow-up email. There are also a number of websites that you can look up.
NatureJobs is perhaps the most comprehensive browser for academic jobs including STM Publishing roles.
My personal advice is to check the list of articles of your supervisor, consider the journals in which they publish, go to web page of the journal (and its publishing house) and finally look for jobs. Chances are that they might be advertising jobs relative to your scientific background.

Useful resources

 Information on scientific publishing from the University of Kent

Alternative Careers in Science: Careers Helpsheet

Posted in: Alumni Case Study - Researchers, For PhDs, Sector Insight, Subject Related Careers


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