In the second of our posts with our Associate Editors, we discuss contributing to the journal’s mission and improving research, the learning opportunities, how to manage time commitments and much more!

If you are interested in becoming part of the team, the British Ecological Society Journals are looking for active researchers to join their editorial boards. You can find more about the responsibilities involved in being an Associate Editor and how to apply here.

Yvonne Buckley is the Professor of Zoology at Trinity College Dublin. She has research interests in determining the future of how we live well on the planet, environmental decision making, plant ecology and quantitative ecology.

Carla Morsello is an Associate Professor at the University of São Paulo. She has experience working in the public and private sectors, as well as an advisory board member of conservation and indigenous rights organisations.

Benis Egoh is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Earth System Science, University of California, Irvine (UCI). Her area of interest lies in generating research outputs on biodiversity and ecosystem services that are relevant for policy implementation.

Aletta Bonn is Professor and Head of Ecosystem Services at the Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ within the German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig and at the Friedrich Schiller University Jena in Germany. She is interested in biodiversity and ecosystem services and their links to human well-being.

Priscilla Wehi is an interdisciplinary scientist and Rutherford Discovery Fellow based at New Zealand’s crown research institute for terrestrial ecology, Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research, and also an Associate Investigator at Te Pūnaha Matatini Centre of Research Excellence on Complex Systems. Much of her research focuses on the connections between biodiversity and culture, including biocultural restoration, and human relationships with both native and introduced species (from birds to mammals to insects to plants).

Left to right: Yvonne Buckley, Carla Morsello, Benis Egoh, Aletta Bonn, Priscilla Wehi.

What motivated you to become an Associate Editor?

YB: Keeping up with new work in my fields of research, getting the opportunity to shape academic publishing, networking with colleagues in my fields, gaining a better understanding of the publication process.

CM: Because I am a woman from a less developed country, Brazil, and tend to research in disciplinary frontiers, I was surprised and very flattered to receive an invitation to become an Associate Editor. By a huge coincidence, I had received a similar invitation a few days earlier, so I had to choose. When I read the “Message from the Editor”, however, I felt at home!

BE: One of the main reasons I became an editor is to contribute and promote research from Africa. I was acting as a reviewer for many African studies but I did not get to make final decisions on them. I want to give studies from Africa a chance as they are mostly underrepresented in the scientific literature.

AB: I enjoy contributing to the development of an inspiring journal with innovative scientific contributions.

PW: I was passionate about the journal’s mission (and still am!). I see interdisciplinarity as an essential lens for future thinking. To be able to contribute to this mission in a small way has been fantastic.

How do you manage your Associate Editor responsibilities with other commitments, both at work and outside of work?

YB: There’s no doubt that it is hard to manage the many competing demands on my time but keeping up with the literature is important to me. Being an editor means I have to read and assess the papers that come across my desk, so reading doesn’t get consigned to the “I should do that but I don’t have time” folder. If I wasn’t an editor I would read less good work and less often and that would be a problem for me. Each manuscript takes a different amount of time, I edit for three journals currently and it probably takes 2-3 hours a week on average. I take “sabbaticals” if I’m too busy, for example I recently had to make myself unavailable for editing due to management responsibilities for a few months.

CM: The time you need to invest fluctuates because it depends a lot on the match between your expertise and the articles submitted. There are periods we have little work to do, whereas in others we need to allocate more time, especially when you receive back the reviews for more than one article contemporaneously. When that happens, I occasionally need to work a few hours on my weekends.

BE: I read early in the mornings when my child is asleep. Sometimes over the weekends. But this is because I want to be detailed and give my own feedback in addition to those of the reviewers.

AB: Being an Associate Editor is a commitment to the scientific community and requires both scientific rigour and inquisitiveness to support authors in enhancing their papers or in making quick and kind recommendations, in case a submission doesn’t suit the journal (yet). Time commitments to do this will vary with the different papers. As the BES journals are excellently managed, Associate Editors are not overloaded with work and well supported by the editorial office.

PW: This has been my first major gig as an Associate Editor, so it has been a learning curve. I really value the input and feedback from the Senior Editors and have learned a lot from them. Sometimes manuscripts come in close together, and I feel the pressure. The important thing for me has been not to panic and rush into it, but instead to break down the work into specific achievable tasks. So, a step by step approach to getting things done. The editorial office has also been very supportive, for example, when I had a very sick family member and couldn’t undertake editorial duties for several months.

What advice would you give to anyone thinking about applying through the Associate Editor open call?

YB: Give it a go, I really like that BES journals are doing open calls and it does increase the diversity of editors on the boards of the journals. When I first started out potential editors were appointed via a “tap on the shoulder” which narrowed the range of people who would be offered the position. The open calls are a great way of getting people into editing who wouldn’t necessarily be identified by existing networks. The open calls are competitive and I think we get really great people into the editorial positions through that pathway.

CM: Read a few articles: do you find stimulated by the challenge as I did? If so, please apply. If you feel like applying but think nobody would consider your application due to your country, your background, or whatever, please, try. Diversity is good for science as it is for society and I believe the editors feel the same.

BE: This is an exciting opportunity for you to grow in your career. Being an editor forces you to read papers on the latest research all the time which can help you in formulating your own research questions.

AB: Don’t be afraid if this is your first time – you will be supported. It is not only a service to the scientific community but can also broaden your understanding and experience. Think about whether the scope of the journal fits with your research focus and if you want to make a contribution to the field. Be prepared to contribute rapidly to assignments, and treat submitted manuscripts as you would yours like to be treated.

PW: I hesitated, but I am so glad I applied. I think that the journal needs editors from a range of backgrounds, countries, and with different disciplinary skills. I see a bit of a disconnect between researchers in the northern hemisphere and the global south, including Australasia and Oceania. Being an editor has allowed me to act as a connector, alerting authors and reviewers to critical research in other parts of the world and in different disciplines, and to contribute to a global research area that I am passionate about.

What do you enjoy most about being an Associate Editor for People and Nature?

YB: I love the diversity of topics and interdisciplinarity of the papers I edit for People and Nature. I get to see innovative new work before it hits the public sphere.

CM: There are two issues I enjoy the most. First, how much I have been learning from the editors and referees’ comments, an asset that will likely improve my research and how I advise my students. Second, the articles submitted to People and Nature frequently have innovative or creative aspects. On the one side, this characteristic makes the task of finding referees and evaluate their reviews more challenging, but also much less boring.

BE: Being one of the first to read an exciting research article in my field but most importantly, having the opportunity to contribute to improving the research and shaping the story. 

AB: People and Nature is the journal I’ve always been looking for, as it bridges disciplines and allows for very innovative contributions. So it’s an honour to be able to help foster its success. Also the editors and the BES team are great colleagues and it’s fun to work with them.

PW: Two things really. First, it is incredibly satisfying to support authors in improving their manuscripts to produce the very best manuscript that they can, by assessing and moderating manuscripts in the most constructive way that I can. Second, I love being part of an editorial team that is helping shape interdisciplinary research that has impact for our societies and our planet.

What’s your top tip for the role or what do you wish you knew when you started?

YB: Don’t be afraid to ask for guidance or help from the publications staff and from the senior editors. The publications staff and senior editors are very approachable and helpful, they don’t expect you to know everything when you start. You can ask for feedback on your editorial decisions and justifications and that can help you to give better quality feedback to authors.

BE: Read the manuscript in detail while it is out for review to help you form your own opinion before you get feedback from reviewers.

AB: Talk to the editorial team, in case of any questions – they are super friendly (well I knew that) and it’s a fun scientific exchange, too!
PW: Take advantage of every opportunity to learn from the role, your interactions with Senior Editors, and the events that BES puts on for editors.