The role of Editor is demanding to say the least. It requires juggling many balls at the same time and that’s before you take into account the day job! In this series we interview various EiCs/Editors who work on MRWs and Handbooks to get an insight into their role of being at the helm of such voluminous titles that require enormous effort and take years to compile.
In this post, Cosimo Bambi shares his love for research having authored a number of papers in high energy astrophysics and particle cosmology to date and now finding himself as one of the Editors of a Springer Handbook.
I am a physicist and my expertise is in high energy astrophysics, particle cosmology, and gravity theories. I had already published a few books with Springer Nature, as author and as editor. However, editing a Handbook of 50-100 chapters is certainly more challenging (and attractive) than editing a normal contributed volume of 10-15 chapters.
It is necessary to organize the work and assist the authors in a different way, because a strategy efficient to work with a small number of authors may not be the best one if the number of authors increases by a factor 10. Moreover, a Handbook covers a wider range of topics than a contributed volume more focused on a specific line of research, and some of these topics may not be very close to your expertise. This is why we need sections and Section Editors in these Springer Major Reference Works, but still it is necessary a certain level of coordination to avoid overlap among chapters in different sections as well as to avoid missing an important topic. Publishing a Handbook of 50-100 chapters is rewarding, mainly because it can be a useful reference work for a larger number of researchers and graduate students.
A Handbook is an encyclopedia of a certain research field, so it is important to cover all the key topics and therefore have to involve many authors. I think a Handbook can be very useful for the community of the given research field. Handbooks of Springer Nature are living reviews, so they can be easily kept updated. Eventually it can represent the major reference work for its community for 10-20 years.
On a typical day, most of my time is actually dedicated to work on my research projects and meeting my students. The job of Editor is relatively light if it is organized well. I normally check the status of the Handbook in the early morning to see if there are any new submissions or chapters to be moved to production. I am always in touch with the other Editors of the Handbook and we may arrange online meetings with the Section Editors of sections with some problems. Once a chapter is accepted for publication by the Section Editors, we have a quick look at the chapter and the report before approving its publication. Sometimes I have to help the authors of some chapters with the copyright permissions as some authors may not be very familiar with the procedure.
The work of an Editor is different from the work necessary to lead a research project or supervise students and one can certainly acquire new skills. I think it is a good way to get to know new people and start new collaborations. There is the opportunity to virtually meet people working on research fields that may not be directly connected to yours and learn about very new lines of research that are not yet well-known or are just at the level of proposal.
I think there are two challenging tasks. The first one is the selection of good authors. Senior scientists are often too busy with other commitments to accept writing a chapter, whilst junior scientists may not have the necessary experience. The best solution is probably to ask a senior scientist to supervise the chapter and involve, at the same time, 1-2 junior scientists. The second challenging task is to enforce the submission deadline. This is perfectly understandable, because people are very busy with many other commitments. To overcome this, it is necessary to select authors that can somehow guarantee to submit a chapter within a reasonable time. Secondly, it is useful to send frequent reminders and have an idea of the progress for every chapter, so it is possible to intervene in a timely manner when it becomes clear that the author is not likely to submit their chapter within a reasonable timeframe.
I think it can be a nice experience and, as mentioned earlier, it gives the opportunity of meeting new people. My advice is to organize the work well from the outset and always be in touch with the authors and Section Editors during the whole preparation of the Handbook. The main obstacle is likely to be that authors are likely to be very busy with other commitments, like teaching, research projects, and administrative duties in their universities. I think it is important to invite authors that can guarantee the submission of their contribution without excessive delays. It is also useful to schedule regular updates about the status of the chapters in every section and make adjustments in the case some authors realize that they do not have the time to write their contribution.
Cosimo Bambi is currently Xie Xide Junior Chair Professor of Physics at Fudan University, in Shanghai, and serves as Editor for the Springer Series in Astrophysics and Cosmology. His main research interests are in high energy astrophysics, particle cosmology, and tests of general relativity. He has published about 200 papers as first or corresponding author and has over 8,000 citations. Currently Cosimo Bambi is one of the three Editors behind the recently published Handbook of Gravitational Wave Astronomy.