Role of a scientific editor at Nature Communications - Majesta Roth

Upon completing the CORE program last summer, one of my main takeaways was the opportunity to learn about professions that I would never have considered directly from the individuals working in such positions. This past week, we had the opportunity to hear from Dr. Fiona Carr, a team manager and senior editor at Nature Communications, a scientific journal in the family of the world-renowned journal Nature. Prior to this talk, I knew little about academic publishing, and others are likely in the same position. Through this blog post, I hope to share this opportunity with others by describing and reflecting on what I learned from Dr. Fiona Carr.

Dr. Carr’s professional pathway consisted of an undergraduate degree, a Ph.D., and post-doctoral work before arriving at her position with Nature Communications. Dr. Carr had a keen interest in science and investigation but couldn’t see herself pursuing research as a career. Does that sound like the position you might be in? Those who enjoy scientific reading, learning new areas of science, making decisions quickly and confidently, and looking for a stable office-based job may find a career in scientific editing to be a perfect fit. The day-to-day responsibilities of a scientific editor involve reading 2-3 papers per day, assessing revision papers, searching for peer reviewers, deciding whether manuscripts are fit for publishing, writing press releases, and communicating with colleagues.

While this talk was beneficial for young professionals considering academic editing as a career, it was also insightful for hopeful career researchers to know what an editor or journal is looking for. As an undergraduate researcher tasked with writing her first review article, I was eager for advice from a senior editor. Dr. Carr stressed that prestigious journals such as Nature are looking for high impact research; findings that will change the understanding and practice of science. However, related journals such as Nature Communications are looking for high-quality research, but do not require that your findings change the field of science. She also made writing recommendations such as avoiding the overstatement of findings as good results should speak for themselves. Lastly, Dr. Carr recommended that non-academics should understand the core message of a paper. These key points could be the difference between your article being rejected and accepted!

While I don’t think scientific editing is the career path for me, I’m excited to know that there are still careers in science that I had not yet considered after significant research. I’m also thankful for this opportunity to share the knowledge I gained with others.