Jessica Lawler helps shed some light on the publishing business for Scientific Reports and Naturejobs.
Every day in this job, I learn something new. As a publishing assistant, I guide manuscripts through the peer review process at Scientific Reports. As such I handle manuscripts at multiple stages of the process. I like to think of it as following a manuscript’s journey from the lab up out into the world. Each day brings new challenges. Organisational skills are a must.
Papers submitted to Scientific Reports are peer reviewed by members of the scientific community. Reviewers are researchers in a similar field to the authors, who have a good understanding of the manuscript content. They offer feedback and advice on submissions, and authors can revise their paper in light of their comments. We have an editorial board of over 5000 members from all over the world who manage this process. They find reviewers, and make sure the publishing process is fair and constructive. The editorial board are all experts in their field, and have the final say over whether a paper should be accepted or not.
One of my main roles as a publishing assistant is to ensure that each submission is handled by a specialist in that area of research. I find one of our editorial board members from the 40 categories of natural science we have, and invite them to handle the paper. To ensure we always have board members in fields that match submissions, I will also bring new members onto the board.
An important consideration in publishing scientific research is that board members and reviewers may have collaborated with authors of a submitted paper. I run papers through a checking system to ensure there are no conflicts of interest.
My typical day usually begins by responding to author queries. We publish papers from scientists all over the world so communicating with authors in New York and replying to the board member overseeing their paper from Beijing at the same time is not unusual. Most afternoons I spend following up with reviewers for their reports and sending decision letters to authors. Being available to provide on-going support and guidance to board members on editorial policy issues is also an important part of my role.
One aspect I particularly enjoy is identifying papers that might be of interest to the general public for press release. I contribute to our social media pages by writing Facebook posts and tweets. It’s cool to see papers that you’ve guided through the publication process in the media, and I’m pleased for the authors too. We recently had the opportunity to see authors of a paper published in Scientific Reports present their findings on killer whales to an audience at London Zoo. It was fascinating to see the finished work’s influence on the scientific community.
Each paper that comes to me has previously been checked by a manuscript assistant. If a paper is accepted for publication it then goes to our production team, who get the paper online. It is a great feeling seeing a manuscript through the publication process from initial submission to an online paper. Sending accept decisions to authors and receiving their thanks and positive feedback is gratifying, and if the decision outcome isn’t positive, it’s still rewarding to know that fair and constructive advice is being provided to authors.
On Fridays we have team meetings. We come together to discuss problems encountered over the past week and share ideas on solving them. We present interesting and unusual papers to the rest of our team. Once a month all the publishing assistants meet with Scientific Reports’ managing editor, and colleagues from other parts of Springer Nature who tell us a bit about how they work. The Scientific Reports team is full of enthusiastic, friendly individuals. I really enjoy being a part of it.
I’m proud to be part of such a front-runner in open access. Anyone anywhere can access and use our research online, without any barriers or fees to pay. This is integral to how future scientific discoveries and breakthroughs will be made. It’s nice to see scientific advancement as an accumulative process with sharing and collaboration playing a key role.
Jessica Lawler studied biology at the University of York where she gained an interest in communicating science to the public. She specialised in neuroscience, animal behaviour and global health. She wrote for her university newspaper and science magazine and started working for Scientific Reports the summer after she graduated.