Interacting with editors at academic conferences: tips for early career researchers

Interacting with editors at academic conferences: tips for early career researchers

By Laura J. Falkenberg

As the Raelyn Cole Editorial Fellow, one thing I have learnt from talking with journal editors is that they are often open to helping authors, particularly those early in their careers, develop ideas and manuscripts for publication. A key opportunity many researchers have to interact with journal editors is at scientific meetings. Journal editors can, however, be intimidating figures difficult for early career researchers to approach (they will, after all, play a key role in the outcome of manuscripts you submit to their journals). With the February 2018 Ocean Sciences Meeting approaching, I thought it would be the perfect time to approach an ASLO editor to talk about how editors view conferences and these conversations, specifically Patricia Soranno (Editor-in-Chief, Limnology and Oceanography: Letters).

LF: First, to gain some idea of how you’re approaching a conference like this, I’d like to ask: how does attending a conference as a journal editor differ from attending as a regular participant?

PS: It does differ quite a bit. As editor, I am very much on the lookout for interesting, innovative, creative studies that would make good potential articles for the journal. Because L&O Letters draws broadly from any area of marine or freshwater sciences, I get to attend a wider range of sessions and talks than I normally would. But, I can’t be everywhere, so I am more than happy to have authors share with me their talk or poster day/time/room number and why it might be a good fit for the journal. I may not make all, but I appreciate the extra information about possible studies that might be good for the journal. Because L&O Letters is still a new journal, my strategy may differ from other editors; but, for the moment, I am very interested in reaching out to authors whose work would be good for building the journal and for setting a high bar in article quality.

LF: Increasingly, conferences are having more opportunities related to publishing at conferences (e.g. workshops), do you see them having benefit for researchers, especially those early in their careers? Will you be involved with any at the Ocean Sciences Meeting?

PS: YES, conferences are a great opportunity to introduce yourself to editors for journals that you have or hope to publish in. Attending any workshops or publishing sessions that the professional society or the meeting has is one way to learn more about the different topics, and you often get a chance to meet the editors as well. We have several of these sessions planned for the upcoming OSM-2018 meeting, including workshops on manuscript submission, and how to write effective reviews, as well as an ASLO Editor’s forum where discussion will focus on publishing and reviewing for ASLO journals as well as broader issues in scientific publications.

LF: If an ECR has a specific editor they want to introduce themselves to, what are the best ways to go about this (e.g. hope to find/approach them in a coffee break, reach out over social media, e-mail to arrange a meeting)?

PS: This likely will depend on the editor, but it wouldn’t hurt to reach out over e-mail before the conference and ask the best way to connect at the conference – to meet at a publisher booth, or to set up a time to meet at one of the coffee sessions, or other alternative. Personally, it helps me to plan the week a bit and to schedule in advance, so e-mailing in advance is the best for me.

LF: Are editors willing to discuss manuscripts being developed, and advise on how they may be written up to be most suitable for the specific journal? If so, what kinds of aspects of a manuscript are editors typically most willing to provide feedback on?

PS: I can only speak for myself, but I am very open to talk about just about any aspect of the manuscript, publishing, or the submission process. In fact, I think authors should talk to editors more than they do because we can help to ensure that the authors’ work fits well within the scope of the journal, that the manuscript meets the requirements for the chosen article type, etc. In particular, I think discussing topics like scope and fit of the manuscript for the journal and general publishing strategies are some of the better topics to discuss with editors. Because L&O Letters is open access and we have a data policy, which not all authors are familiar with, this is something that I am also willing to sit down with authors to discuss how to best meet these requirements. We really try to make it as easy for authors as possible.

LF: What are the topics that you most appreciate ECRs approaching you to discuss (e.g. suggesting they may be a suitable peer-reviewer, commenting on the submission system, asking about early career programmes such as the RCEF, something else)?

PS: All of the above. I feel strongly that interacting with ECRs is an important part of my job as EIC and one that I enjoy very much. I am more than happy to discuss any ideas or challenges that people are experiencing related to publishing in general or our journal specifically. I especially like to hear about new ideas that ECRs have related to today’s evolving issues related to scientific publishing.

LF: Is there anything you suggest ECRs do before and after meeting with an editor to maximize the benefit they gain?

PS: As others suggest, follow up with an e-mail with any pertinent information you want to remind the editor of. If you do end up submitting a paper, you could notify her or him over e-mail before you submit just to thank them again for the exchange and opportunity to submit the paper. In our journal, we do not have authors write cover letters, so you could not do that, and frankly, I am not sure that type of information is needed in a cover letter. But, it never hurts to remind people of past conversations you have had.

LF: Thanks for this discussion Pat.

I hope that this interview has highlighted the range of topics you can approach Editors to discuss at meetings. To contact Pat Soranno directly, you can reach out by e-mailing [email protected] or tweeting to @PASmsu2. In addition, I will be attending the 2018 OSM and would enjoy the chance to speak with you about topics of interest in person (e.g. the RCEF, working with journals as an ECR) or even introduce you to Pat myself. Please feel free to contact me online (e-mail: [email protected], twitter: @ljfalkenberg) or approach me at the meeting. I’m looking forward to a great event!

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