Episode 31: Bronwyn Wake

How, exactly, does one get to be an editor of a Nature-branded journal? What do we do? How do we decide what to publish? And what’s up with all our journals? In this episode of Forecast, I hash out these issues with Bronwyn Wake, the chief editor of Nature Climate Change. But don’t worry … if you’re thinking about becoming an editor, working in a bar is not a prerequisite.

2018-12-19 13_35_07-Volume 6 Issue 10, October 2016

I’m 46 and bald, but when people meet me, they frequently say that they were expecting someone even older, and, I suspect, sporting an extravagant beard and wearing a thin-elbowed tweed jacket. The reality is that the editors across our journals span a range of ages from freshly-minted PhDs to editors who have been in the job for decades. And, unusually for a scientific career, there is excellent gender balance!

Editing can also allow you to have — really! — a reasonable work-life balance in a challenging and intellectually stimulating career. So, if you’re nodding your head in agreement at Nature’s blood-curdling feature on the brutal challenges of starting a scientific career, editing is something to think about.

Most of our editors have broad interests and a preference for a non-academic lifestyle. Bron’s voyage to editing took her through undergraduate degrees in Japanese and chemistry, working in a bar, almost teaching English overseas, chance encounters with science opportunities (in Antarctica), interesting work as a postdoc but no clear avenue to a permanent position. As is the case for a lot of us, Bron “…really enjoyed the research and the field work…” but the rest of the academic pathway wasn’t too compelling.

Bron attended a Nature career fair in London and felt that editing might fit the bill. After an hour-long chat with my boss at Nature, Karl Ziemelis, Bron interviewed at Nature Climate Change and was soon hired. As is often the case, there was a chance for promotion, and Bron now runs the journal.

Running a journal, though, is no picnic. Nature Climate Change was our first journal working in the social sciences, and attracting the best work from these communities took a huge effort, and remains challenging. The range of content is correspondingly vast, spanning climate impacts to battery packs.

Managing brings new challenges. Staff moved on to launch other projects within the company, and recruiting can seem endless. Bron juggles manuscripts with writing editorials and Research Highlights, editing News & Views, coordinating with the art and production teams, and commissioning content. Still, for Bron, the job is not all-consuming: unlike in academia, you can usually shut off your work brain when the day is done.

If all this sounds appealing, and you’re interested in learning some more about a career as an editor, let me know via forecastpod@gmail.com or m.white@us.nature.com and I’d be happy to chat.

Music: Anemic Alloy! by SubRosa CC BY-NC-SA 3.0. Available on Soundcloud.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s