Tell us about your career before publishing
Being an editor is the third job after getting my PhD from Peking University in 2013. I studied environmental behaviours of nanoparticles and did a two-month internship at The Climate Group, a British NGO, where I worked as a policy analyst. My first job after graduating was in climate change, working for a government research institute in China. I did this for less than a year and then worked as a postdoctoral researcher at Tsinghua University for three years, including a three-month visit to Leeds, UK. My postdoctoral research focused on the co-benefits of air pollution control and climate change mitigation, which is a very interdisciplinary topic. I had opportunities to work with researchers from a variety of fields, for example, economics and epidemiology. And thanks to these interdisciplinary collaborations, I acquired plenty of knowledge from these fields.
What do you think your research experience brings to your publishing career?
All editors in Nature Research’s family of journals cover very broad areas so we do not necessarily have expertise in all the areas we cover for our journal. We need to learn fast, building on our existing knowledge and developing new knowledge by extensive reading. The knowledge I accumulated from my experience in air, water and climate research has helped me shorten the learning curve. I am also grateful for the interdisciplinary research experience I gained. It has given me insights into environmental issues from both fundamental and socioeconomic aspects.
What’s your perception of academic research right now, in your capacity as an editor?
Working as an editor has broadened my vision of academic research. I am able to see how different sciences connect, and how these connection points can branch out to form new areas of research. Now, instead of focusing on a specific scientific question, I pay more attention to an area of research and its community of researchers. As editors, we follow up on the latest research in areas we cover and also nurture the emerging sub-areas if they are underrepresented in the journal. As I progress in my editorial career, I feel greater responsibility to help with research communities’ healthy and sustainable development, especially on the issues of data sharing and community diversity.
What do you miss most about your academic research/pre-publishing career?
I miss the teamwork (I do have teamwork now but it’s different!) It’s a very cool experience to bring scientists together from different backgrounds to work intensively on the same research project. And I also miss the fulfilment of realising a research idea. I enjoyed translating my research ideas into research outcomes that can be widely shared, read and used, although the process can be very challenging and sometimes painful. So I do not miss that all the time.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in their research career?
The first, and most important thing is to read papers as broadly as you can. Extensive reading helps you see the big picture and identify the most important research gap in a field. Second, keep yourself connected to the broad research field other than the small and closed group. This will not only bring you more fresh ideas but also potential collaborators. Last but not least, don’t be afraid of trying Nature Research journals! We very much welcome research from early-career scientists.
Xujia is a Senior Editor for Nature Geoscience based in Shanghai