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- Caroline, editor, PhD in chemistry
Caroline, editor, PhD in chemistry
Occupation: Journals Editor, Royal Society of Chemistry
Sector: Scientific Publishing
PhD subject: Chemistry
Why did you do a PhD?
I was sponsored by Smith & Nephew throughout my BSc and as part of that I worked for them over one summer. I really enjoyed it and thought I would like a career in research – I could see from that experience that a PhD would be needed if I wanted to progress up the career ladder. I also enjoyed my 3rd year research project as an undergraduate and was keen to carry on with research.
Describe your current job briefly:
I work in a team of 9 (1 managing editor, me, 4 assistant editors and 3 publishing assistants) handling all aspects of the peer review process for manuscripts submitted to ChemComm (from receipt to acceptance or rejection – a team of Technical Editors handle acceptance through to publication). I am also involved with the development and marketing of the journal and I attend conferences in the UK and overseas to promote ChemComm and all of the RSC’s publishing portfolio. I am responsible for a review section of the journal, including the commissioning of articles for it. I also train the new assistant editors and generally manage workflow within the team. A new product was recently launched (“Chemical Science”) which “draws together coverage from all RSC Publications, to provide a 'snapshot' of the latest developments across the chemical sciences” – I was part of the development team for this product and write articles for it on a monthly basis. All the editors also get involved from time to time in projects across all journals, for example to develop our electronic workflow database, and work with our Editorial Boards (including organising Board meetings) to develop the journal.
Why did you decide in this career?
My PhD convinced me that research was not for me (the project was not very successful – maybe if it had been I would have felt differently!) but that I wanted to stay within chemistry. I looked around at various types of work which would use my science background but not in the lab.
What was your job search strategy and how were you recruited? I was specifically looking for work in one geographical location so I looked at the local newspapers for that area together with the job sections from New Scientist and broadsheet newspapers (in print and online). I also looked at websites for local organisations working in the right kind of area. (NB I was recruited to the RSC as an Assistant Editor and then applied for my current Deputy Editor position when it became vacant about 18 months later.) The recruitment process for the Assistant Editor involved submission of an application form and covering letter, I was then interviewed by a member of the HR dept and by the Managing and Deputy Editors of the journal (roughly 30 min HR and 1h editors). (NB this process has now changed at the RSC and shortlisted applicants attend a selection day where they have an interview, various job-specific tests, and various group exercises to complete).
Why do you think you got the job?
Enthusiasm and showing a genuine commitment to science communication by doing an OU course in my spare time. (I had previously applied to the RSC for a job in science promotion and feedback from that had shown that I needed to provide proof of an interest/commitment to that type of job – the OU course did that.) I had also done some research into the RSC, its publishing and its competitor publishers which helped in answering some of the interview questions. I suspect it also helped that I lived locally and was only temping (i.e. very short notice period) since they wanted the position filled as soon as possible. Temping for a few months (between graduation and getting this job) in various roles ranging from receptionist to PA to training users in new IT software also showed adaptability.
Do you think a PhD has had a positive impact on your career?
Not particularly. Although the advert did mention that a PhD would be useful a significant proportion of the editors at the RSC do not have PhDs. When I had to attend my first conference on behalf of the RSC it was helpful to have previously attended an international conference as a PhD student since it gave me an idea of what to expect. The experience of researching the literature for my PhD also gave me an understanding of journals publishing and the peer review process that I may not have had without a PhD. Overall though it has not been an advantage and my salary is no different from that of colleagues without PhDs who are at a similar stage in their careers.
What advice do you have for PhD students to boost their employability?
Keep an eye out for opportunities during your PhD that will help you stand out from your peers. Stress the transferability of any skills you acquire. Be prepared to support with evidence any comments along the lines of “I have always been interested in…”