Book editing and publishing: A scientific book worm’s dream job
May25

Book editing and publishing: A scientific book worm’s dream job

There is no such thing as a typical day for Merlin Fox, books commissioning editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC). His primary responsibilities include finding authors and editors to write new academic books and book series, managing the portfolio of already published works and seeking out opportunities for new publishing products. I met Merlin at PittCon 2011 this past March, where he was scoping out potential new book opportunities, and I soon found out he was a chemist-turned-book editor. Fascinating, I thought to myself, tell me more! Merlin’s background is in biology (B.Sc.), applied environmental science (M.Sc.), and agricultural sciences (Ph.D.). His graduate research and ensuing post-doctoral work were focused on environmental/analytical chemistry and biogeochemistry. So, how did the transition into publishing happen? Well, after his post-doc, Merlin landed a spot in the RSC graduate programme, where his job was to handle the peer review process for journal articles. After 18 months in that position, an opportunity to work in books came along and he took it. Since he was always interested in books and had research experience, he felt the two viable career paths for him after his Ph.D. were publishing or working in a lab. He chose the former and says he doesn't regret that decision. Although the graduate and post-graduate work weren’t required to get into publishing, he said he is glad to have gotten the additional training in teamwork, keeping to budgets, and working on a set timeframe-- all transferable skills that he carries on with him as he pursues his non-traditional science career path. “A book can take two years to write and needs dedication and focus – much like a long project or Ph.D., so yes, I think having a Ph.D. lends some empathy to what authors are doing – as well as a better understanding of what academic life is like,” he said. What Merlin likes most about his job is being able to travel and meet new people, as well as having the security of a permanent job. But he occasionally misses being in the lab, especially when he visits a chemistry department. Merlin’s environmental and biogeochemistry graduate work was largely composed of fieldwork in the great outdoors. While he doesn’t do this type of research anymore, he finds other ways to satisfy his craving to explore nature. “I grow vegetables at home and do voluntary conservation work most weekends, so I’m still getting outdoors,” he said. Merlin said it is satisfying to see a book he worked on finally come out in print and to see it on the shelf at a bookstore. He also loves learning about...

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Profile: journal editor
Sep24

Profile: journal editor

Publishing. As scientists, we all have to do it. But did you ever wonder who's on the receiving end of those journal submissions? The individual responsible for a big YES or NO, and shuttling it off to reviewers far and wide, evil or kind? Oh, yeah, that person. The editor. Many chemistry journals have professors who work as editors in their free time and hire some support staff, but some have their own independent editors who read and vet papers full time. Science is one such place, and Jake Yeston is one of 15 senior editors there. His main areas of responsibility are chemistry and applied physics. More specifically, he handles the small molecule chemistry papers, "though I also see a fair number of physics papers dealing with spectroscopic methods, biology papers dealing with enzyme mechanisms, and polymer papers dealing with synthesis (vs macroscopic properties). I probably get an average of 2 or 3 papers a day assigned to me, and then I comment on a few more that have been assigned to the enzyme, physics, and materials science editors," he said. Yeston got his B.A.from Harvard and Ph.D. from University of California, Berkeley, and also did a couple of post-docs before landing a job at Science. And how he found out about this particular career path was completely random, he said. "After [post-doc work], I wanted to stay in the DC area, and that geographic constraint really limited the options. I basically checked the C&E News job listings every week for opportunities in DC, and one day in mid-2004 the Science ad appeared, and I thought “Oh—I’d be good at that!” But before seeing the ad, this professional option wasn’t even on my radar." Yeston spends his days reading papers. Lots and lots of papers. He then discusses them with other editors, either in-office or on the web with editors in their other places. "We have a great database that facilitates communication about papers online, so I can exchange thoughts with, for example our physics editor in Cambridge England practically in real time. The job is also very amenable to telecommuting—we have several editors who work from home in Toronto and Boston, for example, in addition to our two main offices in Washington, DC and Cambridge," Yeston said. His official job duties include: "Evaluating manuscripts submitted for publication; discussing reviews with reviewers to determine what additional information is needed from author; working closely with author to incorporate reviewers’ suggestions; presenting recommendations to other editors in an effort to reach consensus on acceptance or rejection of manuscript; editing manuscripts for scientific content and style before and after revisions; following...

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