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Editors Talk about Editing

Insights for Readers, Writers and Publishers


Susan L. Greenberg

The work of «editing» is by and large something that happens behind the scenes, noticed only when it is done badly, or not done at all. There is not much information about what editors do. The result is that editing is not often talked about in its own right – not even by the people who do it. This collection of interviews attempts to fill some of the gaps. The author, a former editor herself, interviews practitioners at the top of their game – from newspapers, magazines, broadcast news, book publishing, scholarly editing, academic publishing and digital curation. The interviewees think out loud about creativity and human judgment; what they have in common and what makes them different; how editing skills and culture can be shared; why editing continues to fascinate; and why any of this might matter.
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Chapter 7: Philip Campbell, Nature


← 90 | 91 → Chapter 7


Editor-in-chief, NatureInterview: Thursday, July 26, 2012Kings Cross, London

Philip Campbell, at the time of writing, heads the editorial operations of one of the world’s oldest scientific journals. He joined Nature in 1979, following doctoral and postdoctoral research in upper atmospheric physics at the University of Leicester. After running publications for the Institute of Physics, he returned to the journal in 1995 as editor-in-chief. A Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and the Institute of Physics, Campbell advises public bodies on a range of issues relating to science and its impact on society.

The very high bar that Nature sets for publication makes it a good example of editing-as-selection. An account of the editing process at the journal also helps to illustrate the rhetorical role of editing in constructing arguments, and the difference this can make to the meaning of a text. Finally, it illuminates a long-standing debate within scientific publishing about how old and new publishing models can co-exist.

Nature was founded in 1869, a time of expansion and innovation in periodical publishing in the UK. The journal declares on its web pages: ‘Nature, above all, has been a survivor’ (Nature 2014).

Its iconic status also makes it a target. Nobel Prize winner Randy Schekman, for example, made a splash late in 2013 when he criticized ‘luxury journals’. He argued that existing open access alternatives such as Public Library of...

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