Merle Zwiers, a PhD student in Urban Geography at Delft University of Technology, was recently appointed the new role of early career editor for the International Journal of Housing Policy. In this short interview, Merle tells us about her experiences as a young researcher in the world of academic publishing. How did she become an early career editor? What are the benefits and challenges that come with this position?
Q&A with Merle Zwiers, Early Career Editor, International Journal of Housing Policy
Can you tell us about your role as an early career editor and what attracted you to doing this?
As an early career editor, my duties are very diverse. I have helped represent the journal at different international conferences, and I have helped the editor-in-chief with reviewing and editing content of the journal. At the moment, I am mainly focused on the book reviews and the viewpoint articles, looking for reviewers/authors that are willing to write a review or short viewpoint article, and checking if the manuscripts meet all of the journal’s requirements. (See here the instructions for authors). This diversity in my duties was very appealing to me, because it provides an all-round understanding of the different aspects of academic publishing.
How did you get involved with the journal and the position of early career editor?
Since the start of my PhD, I had been looking for a position at a journal in my field of research to gain some experience in editing and managing a journal. Coincidentally, I met Richard Ronald (the editor-in-chief) at a conference where he mentioned an open competition for an early career editor at the International Journal of Housing Policy. I was encouraged to apply, and I was lucky enough to be selected from a number of candidates.
What do you think the benefits are in editing a journal as an early career researcher?
There are so many benefits to being involved with a journal as an early career researcher. First of all, it makes you a better researcher! You learn so much about academic publishing; the dos and don’ts, and the secret little things that journals look for in articles. But it also helps your network: I have been lucky to meet so many inspiring and interesting people, being it authors, other editors, and management board members.
And what do you see as the challenges?
I think the only challenge for me personally is to juggle my responsibilities to the journal with my PhD and other activities. The past year I have been doing a lot of teaching next to my PhD, which, combined with my duties at the journal, was challenging sometimes. The journal has several deadlines each year and as an editor you have certain responsibilities. So, there have been a few stressful moments over the past year because of all these different activities. But I think, in general, most PhD students have a lot of time and are very flexible, so it is definitely easy to combine.
How would you like the role to develop (and what would you like to see it leading to)?
We have just extended my contract for another two years. During that time, I would like to have more responsibility and be more involved in the regular journal articles. I am very eager to learn more about the peer review and decision-making process. It would also be a great next step in my career as I will be finishing my PhD in these next two years.
Tell us about your most rewarding moment as an early career editor
We recently had a meeting with the entire editorial staff and the management board, during which I raised the idea of an early career best article prize. I thought an article prize would be a great way to stimulate more young researchers to submit articles. Everyone was really excited about the idea, and they asked me to start organizing the prize. I think this was the most rewarding moment: it felt great that my idea was so well-received! I am really excited about being given the opportunity to organize this idea myself.
What one piece of advice would you give to other early career researchers thinking of taking on a role on a journal editorial board?
Go for it! It is a great experience to be part of an editorial board: it teaches you so much about academic publishing and you meet a lot of great people.