Monday, July 10, 2017

How to get on a journal's editorial board as an assistant professor

My department has a clear checklist of requirements for getting tenure.  One of the checklist sections covers national service, and we need to have been involved in 2 out of 5 of the service categories.  This includes things like NIH study section service, service for a professional society, or editorial service for a journal.  Right now I can already check off 2 of the boxes, but I decided to go for a third, just to make my tenure case a slam dunk.

The one I decided would be the best use of talents and time is working on a journal's editorial board. So the first thing I did was look at the list of journals that had asked me to be a reviewer, and then I thought about which ones I would actually want to serve as an editor.  The next thing to determine was which of these journals actually have editorial boards made up of working scientists (the fancy Nature and Cell journals don't have them; society journals and PLOS journals, for example, do have them).  So then I looked at who was on the editorial boards.  Did any of the journals have assistant professors (this narrowed down this list a lot)?  Is my publication record at least as good as the other assistant professors?  This helped me narrow down the list to a society journal that publishes great papers in my field, has asked me to review multiple times, and has a large editorial board that includes some new-ish PIs.  I scoured their website and there was absolutely no information whatsoever on how their editorial board was chosen.

So I looked through the board members to see if there was anybody from my university or anyone else that I knew.  I found a few people that are loose acquaintances.  I decided to pick the most famous acquaintance and ask for her advice on how to go about getting on the board, noting that I need this type of service for my tenure application and also that I would be thrilled to serve this particular journal.  I actually was expecting that I would have to email a few people before I would find any info or help, but she replied almost immediately.

She told me she didn't actually remember how she got on the editorial board!  But, she asked me to write a three sentence summary of my expertise and send her my CV, and she would try to figure out who might know how this is done.  I'm not exaggerating when I say that less than ten minutes later, she forwarded me an email from the senior editor of the journal saying that he was glad for the suggestion, and that he would be happy to nominate me for the board at the next leadership meeting of the journal.  Then my famous acquaintance THANKED ME for asking her to do this as she has been meaning to do more of this type of thing for junior colleagues.
Morals of the story:  1) You only get what you ask for, and 2) Famous people are sometimes incredibly nice and willing to help you. 

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