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Day in the life of an editorial assistant

Amanda Ekstrand, editorial assistant

How many editorial assistants work on Nature?

Nature has a team of nine editorial assistants working to support the front-half (magazine-style content) and back-half (original research) sections of the journal. On the back-half side of the journal, we support the editors but ultimately rely on each other to double-check adherence to our policies, ensure that manuscripts and articles are on the right track, cover additional editorial tasks and give each other a hand during exceptionally busy periods. We could never do this alone, and are thankful that we are in such a dynamic, supportive and friendly team!

What’s an average day like for an editorial assistant at Nature?

We have no idea! Our job is essentially to support Nature, and its editors, by managing the flow of manuscripts from submission through to acceptance. What this entails changes day to day depending on the different stages of each manuscript and what they require in order to be accepted and published.

How would you describe what it’s like to step into your shoes for a day?

Let’s start with the life cycle of a manuscript. Once a paper has been submitted and is under consideration, the editor decides whether to send the paper for review — a process that can kick-start various rounds of revision. Once an editor is satisfied with the revisions, we take care to check the manuscript and all corresponding files to make sure that all are in good shape for our production team.

We begin by estimating the number of pages required in print, resize the submitted figures to their ideal print-size in Photoshop and ensure that all forms and files are collected, completed and stored appropriately. This stage of the process often involves a lot of back-and-forth with the authors, which keeps us on our toes. A few of the editorial issues we deal with include ‘third-party rights’, style and formatting requirements and policy compliance. The occasional race to process a paper quickly to meet a special issue, or before it is scooped by another journal, adds further excitement to the job.

When a paper nears formal acceptance, we ask our authors to address any outstanding issues flagged to us by colleagues in the production, art and subediting departments. Once everything is acceptable, the paper is whisked off to our production team for subediting and final changes before publication.

While this is all happening, we’re constantly keeping an eye on the bottom-right corner of our screens for another e-mail to materialize!

In many ways, we act as a point of liaison between editorial staff and the author, and so help to keep the manuscript moving through the system. At almost every stage of the publication process, we are in constant contact with authors and reviewers to maintain great working relationships.Meanwhile on the front half, we work with our editors to provide support for our freelance writers, ensuring that all legal forms are in place before our news articles hit the press. We also work with the various multimedia teams to ensure they have the support needed to produce Nature’s podcasts and videos.

What do you enjoy most about your day?

As editorial assistants, we enjoy working on multiple tasks at once. Every day, we handle a number of papers on various subjects, all at different stages in the editorial process. The number we each have on the go at any one time can range from as few as 5 to as many as 20, depending on the time of year! To keep track of them all, we keep meticulous notes in an effort to remain as organized as possible.We also enjoy seeing the papers and articles that we’ve worked on appear in Nature itself.

What makes you proud to do your job?

As an editorial assistant, seeing a manuscript move through the early stages of submission to become a formally accepted and published paper is very rewarding, even though the process can take several months. Knowing that we play an integral part in disseminating the world’s leading science and technology research makes all our efforts worthwhile.

doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d42859-019-00104-1

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