This month, you can see Paul Taylor, Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology and colleagues appearing on the new Taylor & Francis Online. The image on the home page for August 2016 shows researchers working at the Natural History Museum in London, UK.
But what is happening in the pictures? What does a typical working day look like for Paul and his colleagues? What advice would he give to an 18-year old who wanted a career in the field? Read on to discover the story behind the picture.
From Paul Taylor, Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology
What was your reaction to you and your journal being asked to feature in photos on Taylor & Francis Online?
I was delighted. For one thing, I felt that the Natural History Museum where I work would offer plenty of options. Behind the external face of the public galleries it is an extremely diverse institution: aside from laboratories, there are also collection areas and libraries that could have been used for the photo shoot.
Can you describe what is happening in the photos and the story they tell?
Some of the study offices in the Palaeontology Building overlook the gardens and the busy Cromwell Road beyond, as in the first photo which shows an uncharacteristically tidy bench with a binocular microscope and a laptop, both essential tools when undertaking research on small fossils. The second photo is of my postdoc Emanuela Di Martino at the controls of a scanning electron microscope. She is using it to image details of a fossil bryozoan (“moss animal”) from Florida. In the third photo, Christine Strullo-Derrien is standing in front of a confocal laser scanning microscope, conversing with Tomasz Goral about her research on ancient fossil fungi. The final photo shows me peering down a binocular microscope in a laboratory where we prepare specimens prior to studying them with our scanning electron microscopes.
Can you describe your typical working day?
My working day invariably begins on the 7.00 train to London Victoria. I use my time when commuting to work to read, copy-edit and proof journal papers. Once I have reached the museum I am mostly engaged in research – editing for the journal takes up only a small part of my working day. I am an old-school museum taxonomist with research interests in fossil and living bryozoans. The NHM collections contain countless examples of these colony-forming invertebrates from all around the world. Many are unidentified, often because the species have never been formally named. There is a huge amount to occupy me in sorting specimens, describing species and trying to understand their evolutionary relationships, as well as what they can tell us about ancient environments.
What was your route to your role as Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Systematic Palaeontology?
I have always been interested in scientific publishing. There is an old saying that it isn’t science until it is published. Back in the 1980s I served as an editor of the journal Palaeontology and I picked up further experience editing volumes of collected conference papers. In 2009 my head of department invited me to become Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology. I had no hesitation in accepting, not only because I enjoyed editing, but also because the journal had become one of the most prestigious palaeontological journals worldwide through the work of my predecessor Andrew Smith. Furthermore, the journal has its roots in an old house journal of the NHM, once snappily entitled Bulletin of the British Museum (Natural History) (Geology Series).
Tell us about your most rewarding moment as an Editor-in-Chief of the journal.
Taylor & Francis have been particularly supportive and many of my most rewarding moments have come when working with the UK-based staff, often at international conferences. It is also nice to receive positive feedback from the authors after their papers have been published.
What advice would you give to an 18-year-old who wanted a career in your field?
As already mentioned, my main job is as a research palaeontologist. Career opportunities in this field are declining, unless you study dinosaurs or human fossils where public and media interest are keeping things afloat. Becoming conversant with new and emerging technologies, such as CT scanning, as well as analytical methods, is absolutely vital. In addition, I see the need for more people in publishing with scientific backgrounds given the increasing complexity of science.
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