I have to say it one more time: my position as Editor in Chief of JGR Space Physics (and Space Weather) is open, the announcement is here, and I have written a few posts recently explaining what this job means. Here is one more – the less-than-good elements. I should probably wait and post this after the application deadline has passed. No, that would be mean. I want all applicants to know as much as possible – I firmly believe in communication and transparency. You should not only know your duties and benefits of enlistment but also the tough tasks.
This reminds me of a recent xkcd comic, “waiting for the but”:
I have already mentioned that it is a part-time job that takes 5-10 hours a week. This time has to come from somewhere. If your employer is good enough to give you relief from other duties during work hours, then great. For most people, though, I suspect that the reduction in normal work duties will not match the hours you put into being EiC. This is a big service role and will most likely cut into something else that you do. It definitely comes with an opportunity cost and if this will incessantly bother you, then perhaps this job isn’t for you.
Along with this time commitment – it is relentless. If you ignore it, the workload does not somehow go away but rather accumulates. You cannot say, “oh, I let that deadline pass, I guess I won’t write that proposal/paper/email.” No, the work sits there, and the GEMS submission system even tells you how many days that task has been sitting in at that step, waiting for you to act. I try to purge my GEMS page of “red arrows” but getting it to zero is perhaps a once-a-month occurrence; most of the time I work for a while and get through some tasks but have to stop before all of them are done. There is a constant feeling of being behind and if this will exasperate you, then perhaps this job isn’t for you.
I have a strong sense of fairness, justice, and equality, which means I think that each member of the research community should help the journals and funding agencies with regular service as a peer reviewer. As an editor (not just EiC), in GEMS, I see everyone’s information about their authorship on manuscripts in AGU journals as well as their reviewing requests from AGU journals. The only things that are systematically removed are reviewing assignments on papers for which I am a coauthor. I see when people submit many papers but don’t agree to review. I see when paper agree to review and then are habitually late. I see when people write less-than-adequate reviews, either short and unhelpful or mean and disrespectful. If I dwell on this, then I can get frustrated with those that don’t “pull their weight” in the peer reviewing service load. I shrug it off, though, and never let this influence my role as editor on a manuscript in the system. If you do not think that you can let that frustration go, then perhaps this job isn’t for you.
Also, with this access comes the responsibility to keep this information in the strictest confidentiality. AGU clearly defines the ethical standards for editors and expects every one of their appointees to abide by the highest levels of professionalism. I sincerely hope that every person in our research community could handle this requirement, but if you think that this temptation to abuse the power vested in you might pose a problem, then perhaps this job isn’t for you.
Back to peer review – as an editor, I am constantly asking others to do things for me. The journal would not run without an army of volunteers, and we write thank-you editorials to those reviewers every year. We have lots of methods and tools for helping us find experts on the topic to serve as potential reviewers, but in the end, I send an email with a request. When reviewers are late, I send a request. I am constantly asking for other people to do things for me. If you think that this mindset will annoy you, then perhaps this job isn’t for you.
And, finally, the last thing that I’ll write about in this rather long list, is that the editor is a judge. For those papers assigned to you (as EiC, you assign them to yourself), you will be the decision maker on the final fate of each of those manuscripts – accept or reject. There will be times when an author refuses to make requested changes, and you will have to decide whether to publish anyway or reject it. There will be times when a reviewer demands a change be made, and you will have to decide whether the author must make this change in order for the paper to be acceptable for publication. We usually seek two reviewers, and there will be times when one will recommend “publish as is” and the other will recommend rejection; yes, this happens. You will have to choose how to proceed, siding with one or the other, splitting the recommendation down the middle, or seeking a third reviewer. You will occasionally get phone calls from authors, reviewers, or even readers, sometimes with easy questions but more often with some complaint. In all of these cases, all of the authors and reviewers think that they are correct in what they are writing, saying, or doing. When you side with them, you rarely get a thank you, because they believe that they are right and that I made the obvious decision. When you side against someone’s position, however, that person will become frustrated and think I am foolish or idiotic. As editor, you are being entrusted as a gatekeeper of the journal, and authors think their paper is worthy (or they would not have submitted it) and reviewers think their recommendation should be upheld. Every rejection and every acceptance despite a negative review means that someone is now frustrated with you. That is, you will not make many friends being editor, at least not in our field. If you think that this will trouble you, then perhaps this job isn’t for you.
Yeah, this post has been a long one, and a bit of a downer. How about another xkcd about how cool it is that we get to study space:
I like the “pew pew pew” space laser sound. That makes me smile.