Journal Editors and Alt-Career ShamingPosted: October 16, 2012
Like the misery that is Doritos Collisions, this post is about the intersection of two subjects everyone loves to hate: alt-careers and glamour publication. This is because of a misguided form of glamour-slagging, which is to attack journal editors for being “failed scientists” or “postdoc also-rans.” Both of these are phrases I’ve heard used to refer to journal editors at this year’s Society for Neuroscience Meeting.
The reason this strikes me as odd (in addition to just generally shitty and sour-grapes-y) is that we are also in a time where everyone recognizes that most people with PhDs will not have careers as research scientists. Say what you want about glamour culture and impact factors (I won’t defend either), and maybe some editors are ginormous assholes drunk with power, but it is wrong to be nasty to these people. It’s difficult for me to imagine an “alt-career” better than being a journal editor. Especially since alt-careers for which your years of post-doctoring are remotely relevant are mostly imaginary bullshit. This is an exception. You get to read lots of papers, stay current, interact with scientists, go to meetings, etc. One might go so far as to argue that someone doing this is more engaged with a scientific discipline than someone who spends 75% of their time writing extremely narrowly-focused grant applications and the other 25% teaching Intro to Brains to 18 year olds. Not me, but someone might.
We can argue about the idea that anyone should be deciding what’s “fancy” or whatever you want to call what goes in selective journals, but to argue that the people doing it are less qualified than anyone else to do so is dumb and wrong. My experience as an AE, shared by many, is that postdocs are in fact often the best at reviewing papers, with diminishing effort (and objectivity maybe?) as PIs age. This is not exactly the same thing, but still.
Anyway: don’t be an asshole.