On your wavelength

What it’s like to be a Reviews editor

Have you ever wondered what reviews editors do? Chasing authors to submit and making edits to the text of the reviews? That is just a small part of it.

In this editorial we outlined the story of a Review from commissioning to publication. As editors, we spend a lot of time searching for ideas for potential reviews. We travel to conferences and visit labs to find out what the community is interested in and whet types of reviews are missing. Then we work closely with authors to develop the idea of the review, and then polish the text before publication to make it accessible and self-contained so that physicists from other fields can follow, make use of — and enjoy — the article.

Some of the crew on an ice skating trip last winter

Being an editor is a busy and stimulating job. Producing monthly issues means regular deadlines and a lot of planning ahead. We coordinate and liaise with authors, referees, art and production editors to make sure that the content is published regularly as the readers expect. The job is also very sociable. We are part of the journal teams and the wider physical sciences reviews journal teams and even wider reviews team. We also interact a lot with our colleagues at Nature, Nature Communications and the Nature research journals. All editors have academic backgrounds and we all share the love of science and common experiences from our PhD and postdoc years.

Here are some comments from editors of Nature Reviews journals in the physical sciences:

Iulia Georgescu, Chief Editor of Nature Reviews Physics: I think the role of reviews editors is not well understood. We are not gate-keepers, but guides walking together with the authors all the way from idea to publication. We often think of manuscripts as ‘our babies’ because we are as invested as the authors who wrote them. It is a wonderful thing to see a Review evolve from a vague idea, to a well-structured outline and then a full manuscript. We feel great satisfaction when we see the reviews we worked on published and take pride when they are well-received by the community. I often think: look at my baby and how well it’s doing.

The editor’s natural habitat

Giulia Pacchioni, Senior Editor at Nature Reviews Materials: Being a Reviews editor is a lot of fun — I like keeping an eye on how ideas evolve from initial results presented at a conference to a flurry of publications as the topic becomes more established, and deciding when is the perfect moment to commission a Review. I am lucky to have the opportunity to travel to plenty of conferences and lab visits to keep in touch with the community, and to spend a lot of time reading and thinking about science.

Claire Ashworth, who works for our inter-journal team providing support to Nature Reviews Physics, Nature Reviews Materials and Nature Reviews Chemistry: I enjoy seeing an idea develop into a published Review and working with authors at each stage of the publication process to achieve this. I think that Reviews editors are quite unique in terms of the amount of time that we invest into each article and the extent to which we use both our scientific knowledge and editorial experience to help to ‘shape’ an article.

Stephen Davey, Chief Editor of Nature Reviews Chemistry: The Reviews editor role is rather different to that of a primary research journal editor – and not just because I spend my time chasing authors rather than being chased by them. I get to put a lot into every manuscript that I handle. And I do it all while travelling the world, meeting interesting people and slaking my thirst for knowledge.

Zoe Budrikis, Associate Editor at Nature Reviews Physics: Every day — every hour, sometimes! — in this job is different. I can go from looking for commissioning ideas in soft matter physics, to line-editing a review on the physics of climate modelling, to discussing with editors in other journals about what the latest trends in complexity research are.

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