Freya Mearns has spent the past 10 months working for the Royal Society of Chemistry as a trainee assistant editor. She talks to James Berressem about her typical day

Freya Mearns

As part of its activities the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) publishes journals that report the results of new research in the chemical sciences. The RSC employs ca 150 staff at its Cambridge office to produce some 30 journals. A journal's production is shared between two teams: the editorial team, who deal with articles up to when they are accepted for publication; and the production team, technical editors who edit and proof-read the accepted articles and work with typesetters and printers on the article layout. 

Chasing papers

Freya is one of two trainee assistant editors in an editorial team of five, including a managing editor, deputy editor and publishing assistant. The team is responsible for two RSC journals: Dalton Transactions - a weekly inorganic chemistry journal; and the web-based monthly crystal engineering journal CrystEngComm.  

Working nine to five, Freya spends much of her day at her desk using a PC. Eighty per cent of her time is focused on managing the peer review process of articles submitted for publication. The majority of papers are submitted over the Internet or by e-mail. When a manuscript is submitted Freya acknowledges it and reads the paper to check that it is appropriate to send to referees. If so, she sends the paper to two-three referees, selected from a database by using key words from the article to match up with the referees' expertise. Referees comment on the research presented in the paper and its suitability for publication. Freya takes articles which have a complete set of referees' comments to the daily editorial meeting, which lasts ca 30 minutes. At the meeting Freya and her colleagues decide on which articles to accept, reject and those which need revision prior to publication. Back at her desk, she notifies authors of the outcome of the review process by e-mail, passing on any suggestions for revision. Before passing accepted articles to the production team she checks that the authors have submitted all relevant files (data, images etc).  

Freya also contacts eminent authors to commission high-quality articles for the journals. Each week she will spend about three hours identifying potential authors by reviewing other publishers' journals, searching the Internet and by contacting authors of published communications (ie short reports on new research) to invite them to submit a full paper on their research. The team also commissions articles from chemists they meet at international conferences. And it's Freya's responsibility to maintain a diary of conferences at which the journals should be promoted. She does this by asking editorial board members what events they are attending and by searching the Internet. If the editorial team cannot attend a conference, Freya will design a promotional flyer for distribution at the event.  

Occasionally, Freya writes news stories on 'hot' papers published in RSC journals for one of the Society's news magazines. Although these must fit in around her daily responsibilities, Freya particularly enjoys writing the stories because they give her the opportunity to revisit her subject specialism, analytical chemistry.  

Part of the scientific community

Freya is pleased that she is in a job that requires her to use the skills and knowledge she acquired during her nine years of chemistry studies. She enjoys her role because it allows her to be part of the scientific community without her having to work at a lab bench.  

Pathway to success

2006-present, trainee assistant editor, Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge 

2001-06, PhD in chemistry, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia 

2000-01, BSc (Honours chemistry), Flinders University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia 

1997-99, BTech (forensic and analytical chemistry), Flinders University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia 

1996, NTCEs in chemistry, physics, English, maths I and II, Nightcliff High School, Darwin, Australia 

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