Faces of Elsevier - Alina Helsloot, Head of Author Experience

"...being able to work alongside the author community, helping them reach their goals, is a great experience..."

By Alina Helsloot - April 6, 2020  6 mins
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  1. What was your background before becoming Head of Author Experience?

    I worked as an Executive Publisher managing a journal portfolio in our life sciences group. I enjoyed collaborating with researchers on a daily basis: developing journals, organizing academic conferences and creating new publishing outlets to help accelerate science in emerging and interdisciplinary fields. Very exciting!

  2. Tell us a little about what your role entails.

    In my current role, I’m working as part of a dedicated team to identify and deliver solutions to researcher problems. We’re very much aware of the pressure that is on scientists nowadays, and are keen to relieve some of that pressure by offering smart tools and services that help them get published in a journal that is attractive to them, that helps their research reach the right audience, and to do so in a way that saves them time. For instance, we know that authors face an uphill struggle when getting rejected so one of the things my team is working on is to provide AI-assisted alternative journal recommendations coupled with a seamless, time-saving journey into the most suitable home for their manuscript.

  3. How would you describe a typical working day?

    The team has a daily stand-up meeting in the morning, where everyone shares what they’re working on and how this relates to solving a customer problem. While some people in the team are focused on interacting with researchers – listening to their needs and challenges – others in the team are experts on emerging technologies and software that could help with those challenges. It’s my job to bring all of those insights together while ensuring that the work we do is aligned with other parts of the business, as well as with the bigger picture. Ultimately we want to provide an end-to-end publication workflow that is no-nonsense and that works for the user.

  4. How do you measure success in your work?

    We have a framework in place that measures user satisfaction with our systems, tools and processes through surveys, real-time feedback loops, page analytics and of course, user interviews. This data is collected and analyzed to form a coherent picture of how we’re doing and to validate that we are focusing on building the right thing for the researcher.

  5. Do you have any particular advice for new authors?

    As a new author, I think it helps to understand the role that scientific publishing plays in the research landscape and to ask a more senior researcher to coach you on how to navigate in this space. For instance, it’s good to have a plan to demonstrate the societal impact of your research, to think about how you will meet the requirements for the openness of your data and the reproducibility of your work, and to be aware of the different metrics that are used in the process of research assessment and funding allocation. All these areas will inform your behavior and choices as an author.

    In addition you may want to ask your coach about the more practical things you need to consider when  you’re new to publishing, such as the different publishing models out there, the benefits of posting to a preprint server, and what you can do to get your paper noticed after publication.

    When it comes to the actual process of publishing a paper, it’s always a good idea to check if your manuscript is in the right shape, and if you feel you need help with that you may find one of our Author Workshops useful. This will also tell you what reviewers will look for in your paper!

  6. What is the most rewarding aspect of your work for you and what do you find difficult about the role?

    The job of the modern author is an incredibly difficult one and being able to work alongside the author community, helping them reach their goals, is a great experience for me. It’s satisfying to know that our team is making a contribution to fostering a published record of reliable, curated research, which I think is key in addressing the global challenges our planet is facing today.

    What I sometimes find difficult about the role is that building an innovative, meaningful and solid solution, especially in a complex environment such as scientific publishing, takes time and there is always an element of chance. Will researchers like it? Will they use it? And does it solve their problem?

  7. Name one item/tool/resource that you cannot do without in your job.

    As our team is international and our users are also at universities all over the world, I cannot do without a good video conferencing tool. Sometimes travelling is still necessary, but I personally try to minimise that, to reduce my carbon footprint.

  8. How do you see your role changing (if at all) over the next few years?

    We are becoming increasingly data-driven and dependent on new technologies. It’s a trend that has been there for a while, but I can only see it growing stronger. At the same time, I think it’s crucial we continue to focus on the “human” aspect of what we are building, because a solution is only successful to the extent that it is used and valued. So you can build something that is truly amazing from a technological viewpoint, but if people don’t care for it, you might as well not have built it at all. As a result, in the coming years, I see my role being increasingly about understanding and applying the connection between human behavior and technology.

  9. What would you be doing now if you were not working in publishing?

    I love hiking and spending time outdoors. My dream job would be to become a full-time forest ranger so I could spend most of the day outside instead of behind my laptop, although I realize that there is probably a lot of office work involved in forest management nowadays...!

  10. What is the most interesting/amusing/inspirational thing you’ve worked on as Head of Author Experience?
    We’ve recently launched the Publishing Lab, which is basically an open invitation to researchers who are interested in collaborating with us to improve publishing. We encourage people to sign up so that they can be at the forefront of new developments, give feedback on prototypes and be involved in pilot experiments. Here I want to give credit to my colleagues Ronald Peeringa and José Stoop, who have been instrumental in making Publishing Lab a reality.

    I hope that the initiative leads to more transparency, more engagement and most of all I hope that it helps us build better solutions with and for researchers so they can focus more of their valuable time on doing great research!

NB this interview was recorded before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Contributors


https://www.elsevier.com/__data/assets/image/0003/890715/Alina-business-profile-photo-2020-123-x-185.jpg
Written by

Alina Helsloot

Written by

Alina Helsloot

Alina Helsloot has worked in STM journal publishing for the past 11 years. She has managed various portfolios in Life Sciences as Executive Publisher and became Head of Author Experience at Elsevier in 2017. Alina’s international team develops products and services that help authors publish successfully and under their model of choice, while providing them with the best possible experience.

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