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Variety – and music – are the spice of life for Morgan
Top brass – and no emails!
Image Credit: M Hollis

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Variety – and music – are the spice of life for Morgan

Out and about

Image Credit: M Hollis

Life in the day of Morgan Hollis
Assistant Editor in the RAS Editorial Office and Deputy Press Officer.

I’m one of the Assistant Editors at the RAS, working primarily on the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, and I’m based in the main building in Burlington House. I’m currently living in Kentish Town in North London, and usually cycle in through Regents Park, to start the day as it tends to go on: with email. l have a quick sort-out of what’s come in over the evening or weekend and plan my priorities for the day. I normally try to get through a few things on the editorial side first thing, inviting some reviewers to comment on papers and sending comments back to authors for revisions. This is especially important on a Monday morning because a lot of editorial work comes in over the weekend, and overnight from authors and editors around the world.

I also have a look at the press in box and see what needs attention. I might have a press release on the go, so I’ll be liaising with authors and university or institution press officers. There might be a release ready to go out to the press, which usually happens in the morning so that journalists get them in good time to get into the papers. 

The rest of the day is basically jumping on what’s most urgent. It sometimes gets tricky balancing the two worlds of editorial and press work, especially when the pressure is on. For example, today I’ve got to put out a press release this afternoon, and it’s Australian so the timing is a bit unusual. I’ll have to go and work on the release and put it in our house style, make sure the authors are happy and then get it out to the press. It’s also busy at the moment in the editorial office because we have a couple of staff away so I have to keep on top of the papers that come in. And I was in a meeting all morning about the new RAS website, so it gets busy. We’re always busy, really, which suits me as I like to have lots to do. 

I enjoy the different parts of my job, and the variety and flexibility that the RAS allows. Press releases can be fun when you start with something that’s quite rough and ready and needs a bit of work, then after a couple of iterations with the authors you can turn it into quite a good piece. To see it go out and go down well, and to know that you’ve polished it and played a part in its success, that’s quite satisfying.  

I also like some of the customer service involved in my editorial work. When there’s a problem or some blockage in the system, perhaps a referee has a problem or an author can’t load their files, and you can set it back on track and you’ve improved the situation so that everyone’s happy, then that’s a good day. I like to feel that I am improving things and doing something positive in the world. 

 But there are frustrating days, when it feels like everyone has a problem, each one is intractable, and they keep piling in faster than you can get through them. But you keep plugging away at it and get things flowing smoothly, eventually. That’s when it’s nice to have the press work to turn to as well!

Music is something I have always enjoyed. I started when I was aged 6, inspired by a teacher who was a great piano player and a lovely guy. I started on keyboard and piano,and I also learned clarinet at school. At university (Warwick for my undergraduate course) they had a really great music centre with all kinds of groups, so I picked up tuba and trombone as well in the wind and brass bands there. Since coming to London (almost ten years ago now), I’ve been mainly playing brass, as well as singing on and off, in male voice choirs, chamber choirs, opera choruses – they all have their quirks. 

A couple of years ago I got the idea of starting a lunchtime choir for the various societies who occupy parts of the courtyard of Burlington House. It was a challenge for me, since we hadn’t got any budget so I had to run the sessions myself, and I’d never conducted or led a choir before! But we did get something started and held a little carol concert in 2016, which was very well-received. Since then we’ve joined up with the main Royal Academy staff choir as well, so now we have a full courtyard choir, with a proper conductor!

The choir has definitely opened up the social side of working in the courtyard. We found that we all enjoyedgetting together for things like the Open House events, but they happenonly once or twice a year. We’d all go for a drink afterwards but there didn’t really seem to be manyotherchances to get to know people in the rest of the courtyard societies. The choir gives us a good opportunity to meet up, and an hour of music at lunchtime is a really nice change from the emails!

I didn’t want to follow the traditional academic career path, but one thing I like about working at the RAS is that it allows me to stay partially connected to research. It’s nice that the years of study are still useful, and also good to be using the skills I’ve developed in other jobs and areas of my life. I also like the fact that it’s a small charity and there’s lots of chance to try new things and get involved. Thanks to working at the RAS I now have experience in publishing, in press and communications,and in policy and events, so there are various avenues to explore for the future – I’ll just see where the work takes me. 

We’re always busy, really, which suits me as I like to have lots to do.

I like to feel that I am improving things and doing something positive in the world.

An hour of music at lunchtime is a really nice change from the emails!

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