Introducing new editor perspectives
In this new series for Editors' Update we talk to recently appointed editors to learn about their experiences of editing thus far. We aim to find out how they came into the role, what (if anything ) has surprised them about the work, what tools they find useful and what advice they would give to a colleague contemplating a similar position.
Our interviewee in this article is Dr. Marcella Walker, who joined the journal Bone as Senior Editor in July 2019.
- How did you come to your editorship?
A colleague of mine became aware that Bone was looking for a clinical editor and she put me in touch with the Editor-in-Chief. I thought the position would be a good opportunity to get insight into the editorial and review process and keep abreast of the latest research in my field. It also affords an opportunity to interact with experts in my area of science. Because the position involves evaluating the quality of studies and articles, I think it helps me improve my own experimental design and writing. It’s also a great leadership position and helpful for career advancement. Lastly, participating in this way allows me to contribute and give back to my scientific community in a way that I had not previously.
- How would you describe a typical working day?
Typically there are four-five or so manuscripts that I am dealing with at any one time that are in various stages of the review process. On a given day, the tasks might involve doing an initial assessment of a manuscript, examining papers related to a manuscript, finding appropriate reviewers and sending out invitations to review the paper, assessing the reviewers’ comments and recommendations that return, reviewing paper revisions, making decisions on manuscripts, or checking in on the process to make sure papers are dealt with in a timely fashion.
- What’s been the proudest achievement of your editorship so far?
So far, I have had pretty good success finding qualified reviewers for submitted articles, which can be tough. So I would consider that an early achievement. I think it is too early to consider anything else an achievement!
- How do you measure success as an editor?
Ultimately, I will probably measure my success by how often the articles that I’ve accepted are read, downloaded or cited. But along the way and in the thick of the review process, I think I count each step a success if I find the right reviewers and once a final decision is made regarding the disposition of an article.
- Is there anything you wish someone had told you on day one?
I wish someone had given me guidance on efficient ways to find appropriate reviewers. I think one key is to do your homework early and find many potential experts right away who would be qualified to review the paper. I like to search PubMed to see who is doing work in the scientific niche. It’s often helpful to see who is invited to write review articles on that topic in major journals. I usually try to invite about three-four people to review the paper right away and then have an additional six-eight people as potential back-ups should those reviewers decline or not respond. It is also really helpful when people who decline recommend their junior colleagues or others they feel would be a good fit to review the paper.
- What’s has surprised you most as an editor?
What has surprised me most is how much reviewers do not agree. Often, there are completely contrasting opinions in terms of rejecting or accepting a paper. That can be a bit challenging. In those cases, one needs to carefully assess with whom to agree. It is also surprising how many people just don’t respond to invitations. When you are on the other side in the editorial role, you quickly learn how frustrating it is when people just don’t respond. I certainly do not do that any longer when I am invited to review articles for any journal!
- What is the most important attribute for being an editor in your opinion?
I think that one needs to be detailed oriented, yet on the other hand learn how to be able to assess a paper’s quality and originality quickly.
- Name one item/tool/resource that you cannot do without in your role?
I guess I would say Pubmed. I use this to review related literature and find appropriate reviewers.