By Laura J. Falkenberg
As the inaugural Raelyn Cole Editorial Fellow, when I applied to the program I was largely entering the unknown. In figuring out if this was an opportunity that I was interested in, and putting together my application, I scoured the Internet for information on Editorial Fellowships generally and, in particular, what this one would entail. Unfortunately, there are surprisingly few Editorial Fellowship programs like this and, because it was a new program, there was very little information on this one specifically. That has changed now – I have been a Fellow for around 18 months and one of my early tasks was to create a webpage for this program on the ASLO website (See it here), and a Twitter account (@rcef_aslo). However, these resources still don’t really describe what it is like to be a Fellow in this Editorial program, so below I’ll discuss some of the insights I’ve gained during my time in the program so far.
1. The Fellowship can be about whatever you choose. The Raelyn Cole Editorial Fellowship has been designed in such a way that each Fellow can focus on the areas of peer review and publishing that interest them the most (within reason). For example, while I’ve had exposure to a wide range of topics, I’ve also been able to focus on issues around something that I am particularly interested in - the use of language in peer review and publishing. So far, this has resulted in me leading an ASLO Bulletin article on the topic of what makes a review useful to Editors; and I am now in the process of working on another piece about how scientific and plain language abstracts differ from each other. In the future there is scope for Fellows to examine other publishing topics including, but not restricted to: data policies, ethical considerations, and open access.
2. The Fellows really do get to see ‘behind the scenes’. When I began the Fellowship, I wondered if I would actually get exposure to most aspects of peer review and publishing, or if there would be some areas to which my access was limited. I quickly learnt that I was being granted access rarely afforded to people other than Editors – for example, I’ve been able to review journal policy and publisher documents, as well as attend strategy and board meetings. This unique access has greatly developed my understanding of a side of publishing I wouldn’t have otherwise experienced.
3. The Fellowship allows for flexibility in your time commitment. As an Early Career Researcher, there will be many things competing for your time. These can include your current research and writing, applying for new jobs, and completing other extra activities (e.g. acting on a scientific committee, organising a conference). While there are some components of the Fellowship that do have deadlines, such as if you agree to peer review a manuscript, the majority of activities can be completed when you’re less busy so that you can undertake the more time-sensitive ones as required. (For example, I’m actually writing this blog post weeks before you’ll see it, because I’m about to start a new job and expect to have little time to write it closer to publishing.)
4. The Fellows are well supported. One of my favourite parts of the Fellowship has been the guidance provided. I have had monthly online meetings with Pat Soranno (Editor-in-Chief of Limnology and Oceanography: Letters), and when things come up between those calls we exchange e-mails. These interactions are opportunities to bring up any ideas about activities that could be undertaken, which are then workshopped together. It is also a chance to get feedback on the work I’m producing. In addition, conversations with Pat have been an invaluable source of insight to how to be a scientist from someone outside of my normal community. The support network also extends to include the other Fellow, as well as the teams from ASLO and Wiley who are available for specialist support and feedback – for example we worked with the ASLO Web Editor to develop the RCEF webpage.
5. The Fellowship is great for skill development. Coming into the Fellowship I anticipated that I would mainly develop my skills in peer-review, specifically how to write reviews of manuscripts and possibly how to act as an Associate Editor. While I have improved in my ability to fill these roles, I think my greatest development has come elsewhere. For example, I have learnt how to write more clearly and efficiently by authoring these blog posts. I have gained experience and confidence in approaching people I haven’t met before by doing so as a representative of the RCEF. I have developed my ability to manage competing demands for my time by undertaking the Fellowship while also maintaining an academic position.
These are 5 key insights to the Raelyn Cole Editorial Fellowship I’ve gleaned during my ~18 months in the program. If you’re looking to apply and have any questions that you can’t find answers to online, please feel free to contact me on Twitter: @ljfalkeberg, or via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. And remember, you can always follow @rcef_aslo on Twitter for updates. For those of you applying to the next round (application information here), I wish you good luck!