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A day in the life of...Kim Clube, Editorial Office Manager
Kim Clube (left) and some of the assistant editor team at Burlington House
Image Credit: RAS

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A day in the life of...Kim Clube, Editorial Office Manager

Kim Clube

Image Credit: RAS

My job is really keeping everyone happy. Supporting our scientific editors, bringing out the best in the assistant editors and ensuring that authors have all they need to publish their excellent research in RAS journals.

I’m in charge of the Editorial Office at Burlington House and my job is to keep up the excellent reputations of Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (MNRAS) and Geophysical Journal International (GJI). MNRAS is now the biggest astronomy journal in the world. In the nine years I have worked at the RAS it has doubled in size – you could say it’s a bit of monster! Submissions to GJI have increased by 60% so that’s no slouch, either. I want to make sure the journals stay in good shape and to do that I need to keep everyone happy.

            Looking after people is a big part of the job. I’m managing 53 scientific editors for the two journals, and 8 assistant editors on the RAS staff. I’m monitoring their workloads all the time and as soon as I see one of the editors has too much work I’m looking to appoint a new one. MNRAS currently has 23 editors and I’m looking to take on another. We don't advertise; I look at subject areas and we approach people. If they accept I support them in the role.

            I am supported by a fantasic team of assistant editors. We don’t have paper submissions any more, so the work is all on-line. This means that the job can be done from anywhere; a lot of the assistant editors work from home. Everyone comes in to Burlington House regularly, to keep in touch; I’m typically in twice a week. You can see that it’s really important that we all have good communication skills. That’s one of the things I’m looking for when I appoint a new assistant editor. Most of the recent appointments as assistant editor have PhDs, although it’s not something we require. But we do get complex queries and requests for help with figures and formats and with LaTeX; this is where research experience helps and we try to provide a good service to authors. Keeping things easy for authors and referees is an important part of my job. To do that I keep the submission system up-to-date, implement new tools and respond to feedback.

            And then there’s recruitment, staff reviews, organising training and cover. When an assistant editor goes on leave things can’t just be left; authors expect same-day responses. I have to make sure that we keep the service up to scratch. I’m constantly running reports on the submission system to see how papers are coming in, and to keep an eye on our review times. Processing times from receipt to acceptance for MNRAS are 14 weeks, and 8 weeks for the Letters. The journals have grown without damaging quality or review times and it’s my job to maintain that. Authors are not going to publish with us if we get a reputation for being slow or if we publish poor quality papers. We don’t want to be that journal. We accept 80% of the papers submitted to MNRAS and 50% of those submitted to GJI and we spend a lot of time on those that we have to reject.

            Most of my work is triggered by emails. Day to day I spend a lot of time assessing new papers. It's a big job; we had 4500 submissions last year to MNRAS alone. My main job is to check that they are within the scope of the journal. I reject anything that’s obviously out of scope but otherwise it goes to the science editor in the relevant field. I also do a few checks on a new paper – is it in the right format with sensible figures, does the abstract fit our guidelines? When authors submit to our journals they’re taken through a set of automatic checks, including for plagiarism; if they fail on anything their manuscript is sent back. Often we have to sort out various technical problems too. Authors email me asking for extensions on deadlines, complaining because their referees’ report isn't in, asking for advice in preparing a paper, permission requests, arguing against rejection of a paper… I also hear quite a bit from our referees, often requesting a certificate to show that they’ve been a referee for their CV or even for a Green Card application for US immigration.

            Throughout the year, I represent the RAS journals at meetings and conferences. The GJI Board has a lot of members in the US so we hold the annual Editorial Board Meeting at the AGU meeting in December, usually in San Francisco. I organise writing workshops for potential authors at some conferences such as NAM, or sometimes I take the RAS stand along and promote the RAS. Some tasks crop up just once a year, such as the GJI prize for the best student paper, so I need to keep an eye on my calendar.

            If I’m organising an Editorial meeting I set up the agenda and pull together the statistics and reports, find times when most people can attend and take the minutes. The RAS Council like to know what we’re doing, so from time to time I write papers to keep them informed or respond to requests for information. Last but definitely not least, I keep up with our publishers, Oxford University Press (OUP). There are a lot of things we need to discuss, week by week, and they help us with a lot of the queries we receive. OUP are there to support us and they keep me up to date with new publishing developments and help with the submission system.

            If the internet is down, I simply can’t do my job – that’s a very bad day, and fortunately rare. If I’ve got all the papers assigned and am on top of my work that’s a good day. But if I’m in London and getting ready to leave the office at 5.30, it seems as if all the papers suddenly rush in, ping, ping, ping! I get papers submitted every day of the year, even on Christmas Day. I have a counter on my screen showing the number of papers waiting. When it reads 0, that’s a really good day. It happened once and I took a photograph!

I want to make sure the journals stay in good shape and to do that I need to keep everyone happy.

MNRAS is now the biggest astronomy journal in the world.

Authors are not going to publish with us if we get a reputation for being slow or if we publish poor quality papers. We don’t want to be that journal.

Keeping things easy for authors and referees is an important part of my job.

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