A day in the life...

What do we get up to?

Go to the profile of Heidi Burdett
Jan 25, 2016
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I’m new to the editing game. In fact, my role as Associate Editor with Nature Microbiology is my first – and what a place to start! Having come straight from a research position at the University of St Andrews, UK, I didn’t really know what to expect when I joined NPG. So, for my first ‘From the Editor’ post, I thought I’d share with you my typical day, hopefully giving a wee insight into the editorial world.

For me and many others, it all happens at the 'Springer Nature London campus', just round the corner from Kings Cross railway station. For the past few months, all of the Nature Microbiology team have been based in London, but this week we say farewell to Mike, who is moving back across the pond to set up home in the New York office (we will miss you!).

Part of the Springer Nature London campus, taken on my first day working for Nature Microbiology! Photo credit: H Burdett.

As is typical for almost all of us these days, first on the daily to-do list is to work my way through emails that have built up overnight. Many of these will be from you – the global microbiological community – such as replies to review requests, questions about potential paper submissions, or queries about revisions.

Next up is the online portal where all our submissions are stored. Here, I can see the number of new submissions assigned to me (ecology, evolution & community), and the progress of older submissions. First priority is to keep on top of review requests – we try to have at least 3 referees for each paper, all with different but complimentary expertise. This helps to ensure a fair but rigorous review process, identifying the interest and issues of a paper from both specific and broader perspectives. Next up, I read the comments my fellow editors have kindly given in response to any questions I had over papers handled the day before. Microbiological research can be highly disciplinary, so we often seek each other’s advice over paper decisions at the pre- and post-review stage.

So, now it’s almost 10 am, and I’ve still not looked at a new paper! We each handle ~10 new papers per week, so it’s important to keep on top of submissions – they soon build up! We try to keep our ‘time to first decision’ as short as possible. Usually this means a one or two day turnaround, but holidays, sickness, conferences, etc can push this up a little bit so please do bear with us! Many people are surprised at how long we spend on each new submission – we really do read every paper that comes in! Reviewing papers as an editor is very different to the way I reviewed papers previously – we are looking for aspects such as novelty, broad interest and conceptual advance rather than the finer details one might focus on as an academic referee. This was a really steep learning curve when I started with Nature Microbiology, and a topic worthy of its own post – watch this space! Other jobs we get up to each day include keeping a check on the progress on other articles, such as post-referee decisions and follow-up on ‘front-half’ content such as News & Views, Books & Art, commissioned Comments and Reviews, etc.

Phew! That’s quite a lot for one day, and before I know it, it’s nearly dinner time. Like most of us, sometimes I do wish there were more hours in the day, but time flies when you’re having fun, doesn’t it! Speaking of fun, it’s Burn’s Night here in Scotland today (where I’m based when not in London), so I will leave it there, get back to my papers, and look forward to ‘Addressing the Haggis’ this evening with a little help from Rabbie Burns!

Go to the profile of Heidi Burdett

Heidi Burdett

Editor, Nature Microbiology

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