My Shadowing Experience at Wiley

  • June 27, 2022
iJOBS Blog

By Melody Wren

Hi iJOBS Blog readers, 

I’m in my final year as an Exposure Science graduate student at Rutgers and want to share with you what I learned during my shadowing experience at Wiley back in 2018. From the beginning of my graduate career, I was always trying to figure out what I wanted to do once I graduated, and my mind was changing every five minutes it seemed (my parents can verify). I went to iJOBS career panels and talks, and decided I wanted more first-hand experience in a career I was interested in. It’s one thing to hear someone talk about their own experiences, and another to see what it’s like to work there day in and day out. When I joined iJOBS phase II in 2017, all I knew was that I didn’t want the headaches of a career in academia but still wanted to stay active in my field. I decided to shadow a scientific editor since I enjoy writing and editing and wanted to explore jobs off the bench. **Small spoiler** This shadowing experience gave me exactly what I was looking for: a new perspective of what a job in scientific editing truly encompasses and what the job demands on a daily basis. It was also a necessary step on my way to finding the right career path. 

            I was paired with a mentor at Wiley, a well-established publishing houses for academic publications that manages over 1,600 academic journals. With their global headquarters located in Hoboken, NJ, my commute was a two-hour walk + train adventure from Highland Park every day for two weeks. iJOBS phase II trainees can split up their time differently while shadowing, but I decided to do it all at once. My mentor, Ginny Chandra, was an amazing shadowing mentor. She worked with my schedule to set up shadowing dates and always made herself accessible. I split my time working with two editors, the editing director of the Journal of Neuroscience Research (a Rutgers graduate) and the managing director of Ecology. During my two weeks, I gained hands-on experience with editing and selecting manuscripts, helped craft emails to authors, and learned about the online system they use to manage journals. Ginny set up several meetings with editors and people with other positions within the publishing house where I learned about their experiences in the field, asked questions about the industry, and got tips on how to line myself up for a career in publishing. 

During these meetings, I learned that all the scientific editors had a PhD, and some even had post-doctoral training. This is the only unit of the publishing house that has all science PhDs, and for good reason. Many journals come to the in-house publishing unit in bad shape from whoever had managed the journal previously, usually an academic society or a field expert in academics.  The primary focus for these editors is to revitalize the quality of the journal and revamp its focus and standards. Many members said that this was not what they envisioned they’d be doing after graduate school, but none of them regretted their transition into the field. They were still able to stay up to date with cutting-edge science and engage with top scientists and colleagues. 

            From the start, each editor is given three or four journals to manage, which may seem overwhelming, especially when some may not be in their field of study. However, since they all have a deep understanding of the scientific method, recognizing good and bad science is the qualifier they rely on to judge incoming manuscripts. One editor was selected specifically to build a journal from the ground up, where he was able to use his established relationships he had built through his academic career to form a base of reviewers and potential authors. Another editor headed a society journal, where she was able to work directly with the scientific society to improve authorship and membership. What they learned and the relationships they built throughout graduate and post-graduate work wasn’t wasted on the job. 

From my whole experience, the biggest shift in my understanding came in what it really meant to be an editor. Like curators who select artwork for their gallery, editors are curators of their scientific niche. They have control over what is brought into the archives of scientific discovery. This role holds a lot of power, and one thing I admired was their commitment to publishing good science. With the NIH’s new (at the time) emphasis on rigor and reproducibility, it was reassuring to see editors there realigning their journals’ acceptance criteria to include the NIH standards. Especially when working with low impact factor journals, they saw promoting good science as an advantage to improving the reputation of their journals. Ultimately, the editors at Wiley hold a unique position where they can instill good practices into the journals they manage while having a positive impact on the industry. 

Let’s be real, the publishing world comes with its own headaches that we may be more familiar with: dealing with difficult authors, reading error-riddled manuscripts, and tight deadlines associated with publishing on a monthly or quarterly basis. Nevertheless, scientific editing puts you in a position to impact the industry in a meaningful way while still engaging with researchers and high-level science. Although I realized this was not the career I wanted (I have decided to teach High School science instead), the experience and understanding I gained through shadowing, and iJOBS in general, helped me sort through all the different possibilities. So, my final advice to you all is two-fold. First, I highly recommend putting in the work to join iJOBS Phase II if you want to invest more time into career exploration. And secondly, there are headaches to every job, so choose the headaches you are willing to deal with every day. 

Happy career searching,

Melody W.

This article was edited by Junior Editor Gina Sanchez and Senior Editor Samantha Avina.