Tell us about your career before publishing
I did my PhD in geology at the University of Liverpool where I studied the mechanisms by which individual minerals deform in tectonic fault zones. I find it fascinating that the answers to such large-scale questions as how mountain ranges rise and ocean basins open, can be examined through studying processes at the micro- and even nano-metre scale. Like many people who start out in an academic career, it was this basic interest and curiosity that led me into research – that and the promise of field work in amazing locations.
What do you think your research experience brings to your publishing career?
My time as a researcher exposed me to the rollercoaster of emotions that you go through when embarking on an academic career; the passion, determination and intrigue as well as the frustration, disappointment and despair. It’s taught me to understand the time and effort that goes into all the work we receive as editors and how important each manuscript is to its authors. As an author I had a broadly useful and constructive experience of peer review, and I feel this is how it should be for everyone. Above all I want to get hard work published and recognised.
What’s your perception of academic research right now, in your capacity as an editor?
I think academic research is thriving. In my own field of Earth and environmental science, researchers are on the front line of understanding and tackling the most important problem of our generation in climate change and there is a huge amount of amazing work on this global issue coming out every day. Of course, there are many problems in academia – diversity, representation, funding – but early career researchers are some of the most vocal and active in trying to address these issues and I think it’s a community that people can be proud to be a part of.
What do you miss most about your academic research/pre-publishing career?
Besides the aforementioned fieldwork and the sense of genuine adventure and discovery that brought me, I think what I miss most about academic research is those moments where something just clicks and you make sense of that problem you’ve been chasing for the last few weeks (or months). The freedom to dive into a problem headfirst and devote all your attention to it is rare and can be very rewarding. Of course this is something of a double-edged sword as the numerous times that your thinking doesn’t lead anywhere can be disheartening when you’ve put so much into it.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in their research career?
Set goals early and try to keep track of them, it’s easy to lose direction and get bogged down in other questions otherwise. It’s really important to celebrate your successes, no matter how small, so that you remember them and take note of them. Celebrate those of others around you too, they’ll really appreciate it. Ultimately, do what interests you and makes you happy. It sounds simple, and that’s probably how you got into research in the first place, but it’s easy to end up working on something that doesn’t drive your intrigue quite as much.
Joe is an Associate Editor for Communications Earth & Environment based in London