What skills from your science degree are relevant to a career in publishing?

This is the first of three blog posts from Future Science Group, helping you think about careers in publishing.

When I first chose to pursue a career in scientific publishing upon graduating from university one of the trickiest considerations was deciding whether I had picked up the right skills during my degree to be successful. Of course, when the job title “Editor” is mentioned, people tend to think about reading, writing and proofreading. Even though my degree was in neuroscience, I’ve always had an interest in written language, and proficiency in this area is definitely an advantage. However, when I actually started in my first publishing job, I realized that there were a lot of useful skills I had picked up during my studies that I now use on a daily basis.

First, a clear understanding of the process of undertaking and publishing scientific research is very useful. Although areas such as experimental design, methodology and data analysis are covered in detail during a typical science degree, what actually becomes of a study that has been written up is often something that that isn’t introduced to students until they begin their final-year research projects. In this respect, an understanding of how journals operate, particularly the peer review and revisions process, provides a solid foundation for a career in publishing. Many degree courses also run journal clubs for students, which are a great way of finding out how journals are judged, often through indexing and the various metrics available.

There are also some very important ‘general’ skills that are essential to a typical Editor, such as time management and the ability to find information effectively. In terms of time management, editorial work is highly demanding and you must be able to work on multiple tasks simultaneously with a mixture of short- and long-term deadlines. Importantly, you will have to get used to the fact that you will always have something on your to-do list! The ability to use the web to research topics and identify key opinion leaders is also a very important, but often undervalued, skill; you need to keep abreast of the field and ensure your publications are covering the topics of most interest to your readers. We actually use a lot of the same research tools as scientists do when researching, such as PubMed and Web of Knowledge, so I would recommend familiarizing yourself with scientific databases and internet resources. Any publisher is going to want to see evidence of these skills, and your degree is the ideal place to develop them.

The entry requirements in terms of experience vary amongst different publishers; however, everyone has to start somewhere, so I would encourage anyone with an interest in scientific publishing to try and get themselves involved in as much as possible during their degree so they graduate with a well-rounded and diverse experience of their field. Not everyone who pursues a degree in science is destined for the laboratory, but this doesn’t mean these skills are irrelevant either. I’ve found that experience on both sides of the bench has been invaluable as an Editor of scientific publications. In essence, when we are looking at potential new recruits, we’re not necessarily insistent on solid editorial experience while at university, but instead ask ourselves what the candidate has done to demonstrate that they are a passionate and driven individual who can handle a large amount of responsibility from their first day, work effectively within an editorial team, and represent the company appropriately to the scientific community. If the skills I have described here appeal to you then I would encourage you to develop them as much as possible during your degree so that you stand in as strong a position as possible when it comes to applying for editorial positions in publishing.

Here are some useful resources related to what I have discussed:






Written by Jonathan Wilkinson, Future Science Group