Faces of Elsevier - Catherine Carnovale, Publisher

"...a friendly face and relatable persona ... is the key to building genuine relationships in a predominantly virtual world..."

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  1. What was your background before becoming a publisher?

    Before I started at Elsevier I was a postdoctoral researcher in the area of nanobiotechnology. My research examined the way nanoparticles interact with the human digestive system. I was based in Genova, Italy, a long way from home for an Aussie! My interest was always drawn to my activities outside the laboratory – towards analysing data or disseminating my results. When I first saw the publisher’s role advertised, I thought it sounded like the best parts of my day as a researcher.

  2. How would you describe a typical working day?

    It sounds cliché, but there almost is no “typical” working day for a publisher! On any given day I might be meeting with editors (virtually or in person), wading through budgets, attending an editorial board meeting, liaising with our marketing team or putting my head down for a solid planning session. I secretly love the days that I delve into the statistics. I have found the editors in my computer science portfolio to be very receptive to seeing journal trends supported by statistical evidence. It’s a nice channel for my analytical addiction!

  3. How do you measure success in your work?

    Happy editors are always a great sign! With that said, editors deal with a myriad of issues as part of their role. A more realistic measure of success is good editor engagement. I’d like to think that the editors I work with know that they can run new ideas past me, come to me for advice on tricky problems, and call out for support when they need it.

  4. Do you have any particular advice for new editors?

    Don’t be afraid to ask questions! It’s easy when you’re new to feel like you’re an imposter surrounded by experts. If you’re lucky, you will indeed be surrounded by experts and more often than not your colleagues are only too happy to share their knowledge. In my experience as a new publisher, being surrounded by more experienced colleagues is a boon.

    I also think that new editors shouldn’t be afraid of showing their personality. Being able to put a friendly face and relatable persona to what would otherwise be a blank avatar is the key to building genuine relationships in a predominantly virtual world.

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

    Scientific publishing is a global industry which can present various rewards and challenges. Interactions between myself, reviewers and editors are stretched across various time zones, which inherently dictates that there may be some delay in communications back and forth. This isn’t always an issue (fortunately I’m not expected to wait up for emails arriving in the wee hours!) but it is something that should be kept in mind.

    On the other hand, there is a richness you gain from having colleagues and associates spread across the globe. The Elsevier office in Amsterdam is full of expats from far and wide, it’s a very international group. Despite my efforts to be neutral, I’m guilty of sneaking in some Australian slang when I communicate, perhaps it will catch on!

  6. What is the most important attribute for being a publisher?

    The ability to juggle (even if only virtually!). At any one time, a publisher will be required to prioritise an ever-growing list of items which each demand our attention. Being able to prioritise, without getting overwhelmed is an important skill to have in this role.

    I like to reflect on the fact that I started my professional career as an author and have now found myself on the other side of the process in the publisher’s seat. The empathy that this flip created helps me to make decisions which I hope balances the needs of both groups.

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

    My laptop and a valid passport! I love the flexibility of working from any location - being out of the office doesn’t present any barrier to being productive. The role entails a lot of travel, which is exciting, but the evil sidekick of travel is a lot of waiting around! The ability to connect to all our systems remotely, means that I can make use of time that would otherwise be wasted.

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

    There are a number of movements in academia that are expected to have an impact on scholarly publishing. The most obvious shift will likely stem from changes in the attitudes and requirements for open access publishing. We’re also seeing the rise of mega-journals, an increasing push from the open data movement and experimentation with non-traditional formatting for research papers. It all makes for an exciting time to be involved in publishing as we try to evolve with the research community.

  9. What would you be doing now if you were not a publisher?

    I’ve only just started in this role, so I’m quite keen to stay! Having said that, if a permanent position as a contestant on the Great British Bake Off became available, I might need to request some extended leave...

  10. What is the most interesting/amusing/inspirational thing you’ve worked on as a publisher?
    I am constantly surprised by the enormously complex nature of academic groups. There are so many niche research communities out there that many people may not know about! I don’t want to single out any subject area in particular, but I was definitely ignorant to many of the smaller and more specialised groups that some Elsevier journals serve!

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