From a young age, I had always been interested in media and communications. From trying to create a family newspaper aged 8 (which consisted mostly of my dog’s trick learning skills) to writing diverse blogs, I was very passionate about writing. However, I was never really one to follow the news and current affairs very closely, which I thought was essential for anybody hoping to pursue a career in such a field. Throughout my time at university, I have discovered that – sure, maybe politics and news stories aren’t what I am passionate about – but science news is fascinating.
Whilst studying a degree in Applied Biological Science, I have found it very important to read recent papers on different topics you touch upon. I loved the fact that Biology is ever changing and that it covers so many broad areas. One day I might be reading about Alzheimer’s disease, and the next about the way in which a virus enters a specific cell type.
I enjoy reading about so many different things and worry that if I limit myself to one topic, I might miss out on other interesting discoveries. I had never considered that I could combine my passion for science with my interest in communications. With the broad career goal of pursuing Science Communications, I decided to try and gain some experience in the field during my time at University.
Since February 2017, I have been working for an online scientific journal called the “Journal of Young Investigators” (JYI). This journal publishes undergraduate research manuscripts in different scientific fields, and is run entirely by voluntary undergraduate staff. There is a board of directors composed of scientific professionals, some of whom worked for JYI during their time as undergraduate students, and they are there to guide us university students through the inner workings of running a scientific journal. Being a journal run by undergraduates, it is fully adapted to fit around your schedule, requiring a commitment of only 5 hours per week for non-executive positions and 10 for executive roles.
JYI has two main content departments – the News and Careers department (NCD) and the Research department. The NCD is composed of undergraduate writers and editors, whereas the Research department has undergraduate editors who review scientific manuscripts.
When I first joined over a year ago, I was a Science Journalist in the NCD. I was involved in writing different articles; either a news piece or a careers article. The way that the NCD works at JYI, is that each month there is a writing cycle. Each writer is assigned to an editor who are to work on an article together. You get a week to come up with an article plan, a week to write a first draft and then a week to finalise it. At every stage you have to send your editor an update, and they are always available to lend a helping hand if you get stuck or need advice. Then, on the first of every month, the articles written during that writing cycle are published in the monthly issue of the journal.
Despite enjoying my time as a science journalist, I was not able to write as regularly as I would have liked due to the great imbalance between the high numbers of journalists and low number of editors. JYI is run on a voluntary basis, so I decided that I was not doing enough as I would have liked to. This lead me, in April of this year, to decide to become an editor.
I had never really done any editing before and I was slightly worried that my control freak nature would just want to change everything I read to something closer to my own style. However, this was not the case. Even just a week into my first writing cycle, I decided that I may even prefer editing to writing. I loved the fact I could ask the questions that came into my head whilst reading something and it would help improve the article overall. I was able to work with some very skilled writers, and that may have made the task easy in the first place, but I learnt a lot in my time as an editor.
Fast forward a month or two. I really enjoyed editing, but I still felt like I could be doing more during my time at JYI. So, I decided to apply for the position of Managing Editor. At the end of July, I heard back that my application had been successful, and I was now a member of the executive board of JYI!
Becoming Managing Editor meant that I swapped departments. I no longer work as part of the NCD, but I was now working in the Copy-Editing department (CED). This means that I am involved in the publication of the different journals. Research editors send the manuscripts they receive to the CED and my Lead Copy Editors and I have to coordinate our teams to effectively edit the articles and get them ready for publication. Then, the Director of Publications and layout designers create the layout of the article, the Editor-In-Chief and I give our final approval, and it is ready to be printed in the next issue.
Having only been in the role for a couple of weeks I am still getting used to the way things work, but it is very exciting. I am in charge of the Copy-Editing and Publications departments and am a member of the Executive board of the journal. This means I attend monthly Board meetings, mostly online but with one in-person meeting a year too – the next one of which is in Washington D.C. (!!).
JYI has been a great place for me to showcase my talents. I have been able to develop writing skills, editing skills, and in my new role I will be learning more about scientific editing, layout designing and team-building. Since JYI is an online journal, the staff is international. I have had the opportunity to meet students from all over the world, in similar fields to what I am interested in but also completely different areas of expertise. These people will be my contacts for life, which will be valuable for post-graduate life.
I would greatly recommend JYI to any undergraduate who wants to pursue a career in Science Communications, or who wants to gain extra skills in the field. Not only are there many networking opportunities, but I can already tell that my time reviewing scientific manuscripts will come in handy when writing my Masters dissertation! Not to mention how good starting with experience as Managing Editor of a Scientific Journal will look to employers.
If anyone is interested in applying for any positions within JYI, I would highly recommend it! Everything happens online, and all non-executive positions require an average commitment of 5 hours per week. Please feel free to message me if you have any questions. Journalists and Editors are hired on a regular basis, but all other roles such as communications officers and programmers are listed here when the positions become available.
I am currently looking for Copy Editors and Graphic Artists in my department, so please feel free to get in touch! 😉
If you’re interested in getting your undergraduate research published, check out guidelines here.