Q&A with Nature Communications Senior Management

Why did you want to run a journal like Nature Communications?

Elisa De Ranieri: I’ve started my editorial career at Nature Communications back in 2012 and even though I moved to other Nature journals, I remained fond of it because of the values of inclusiveness and openness that it promotes. The opportunity to join the journal again as Editor-in-Chief was too good to miss: because of the breadth and scale of operations of the journal there are endless possibilities in working with the research community to improve scholarly communication.

Enda Bergin: I started off in Nature Communications back in 2013, and worked in every editorial position (Associate Editor, Senior Editor, Team Manager, and now Chief Editor). I enjoyed every role for different reasons and became very fond of the people here and also the ethos of the journal. It is always busy and at times hectic, but I have found that I can work well under those conditions! And working in a journal that covers all of science is tremendously interesting. When the job came up to be the Chief Editor for Physical Sciences at Nature Communications, I was already very happy in my position as Chief Editor at Nature Catalysis – I would not have moved unless I really wanted to get back to such a great team.

Nathalie Le Bot: I love the passion all editors have to serve the interest of their communities and to promote open research. The journal offers a unique view on the research that interests a wide range of communities. I find the breadth of expertise editors have and their dedication exhilarating. I feel privileged that such a wide range of researchers trust the journal to shepherd their work to publication. I love that as long as a discovery is of importance to a particular field and opens new avenues, we can give it a home.

Fiona Gilliespie: Since joining Springer Nature in 2016, I've always worked at Nature Communications, and in the role of Managing Editor, I manage the day-to-day operations and ad hoc projects taking place. Nature Communications is an Open Access, innovative journal with over 100 Editors and support staff, and effective processes, workflows and communication to authors, reviewers and readers are important to showcase the breadth of important content we publish. While challenging at times, due to the sheer volume of content submitted and published at the journal, it's always been fulfilling and varied.

What is it like to run a journal like Nature Communications?

Elisa De Ranieri: We have a team of over 100 editors spread over 3 continents, handling content in all areas of the natural sciences and social sciences: there is always something happening! A lot of firefighting, but also a lot to learn, both scientifically and about human nature. We take pride in being early-adopters for initiatives in peer review, which means we are faced with changes to workflows and processes all the time, but we also adapt to the changing needs of researchers. Sometimes it feels like steering a huge machine, but we also act in unity as a team, and this makes sure we all pull in the same direction.

Nathalie Le Bot: Taking care of the life sciences division allows me to learn something new every day. I enjoy helping editors publish studies they consider important in a timely manner and to the high standards of data and methods sharing we adhere to. I love the enthusiasm editors show to initiatives aimed at improving transparency and fairness in the review process

Enda Bergin: Every day is different, and this is one of the things that I love about this role. I work with editors and Team Managers from all different backgrounds. One day I am hearing about the moons of Jupiter, and the next about the latest polymers. The tasks on any given day also vary widely — you have to be okay with dealing with new situations and thinking on your feet.

Fiona Gilliespie: Project management for such a large and complex journal always keeps me on my toes! I am the co-chair of two internal working groups and liaise with many other teams in the company, such as our Editorial Support and Production teams, regularly. One of the best aspects of the role is working on exciting initiatives, for instance offering reviewers the option of being named on the papers they review. The launch days for these are always exhilarating and highly rewarding, especially when we later receive positive feedback from the reviewers who take part. 

Where do you see the journal going in the next ten years?

Elisa De Ranieri: I think the journal will remain a leader in the multidisciplinary category of journals, and it will continue serving its function of showcasing important advances within each research field. I see it expanding its scope even further, to extend to a broader range of social sciences as well as more applied sciences. The journal output might not grow as fast as in past years, but I do think there is still some room for growth. 

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Fiona Gillespie: I see Nature Communications becoming more and more of a 'community journal' that supports all researchers, be they authors who publish manuscripts, reviewers who confirm the validity of the manuscripts or readers who engage with the final published article. We also aim to be a transparent journal and I hope that over the next ten years, we can expand on that transparency in more innovative ways.

Enda Bergin
: It is hard to say. I do not think that anyone who was around when the journal first 
launched could have known quite how successful it would become. But I think it is safe to say that it will publish top quality work, as well as continuing the initiatives to open up science and peer-review processes.

Nathalie Le Bot
: I believe the journal will develop further open science initiatives and innovations in publishing in keeping with the evolving needs of the research communities we serve. We are keen to nurture early career researchers by inviting them to take part in the review process and by helping us build new ways of sharing scientific results. 

For example, I am keen to see how far we can promote the registered reports format outside fields that have already embraced it, in pre-clinical research. In ten years, a scientific paper could be a node centered around a particular idea or finding and from which a range of tools, updates, further data analysis emerge, all interlinked and serving different purposes for science to progress. I like to think we will be able to offer such integration to authors and readers. 

Elisa and Enda, as you both left Nature Communications to then come back as the Editor-in-Chief and a Chief Editor, respectively, some years later, has your view of and vision for the journal changed?

Elisa De Ranieri: The journal itself changed significantly in the seven years of my absence. For one, it blew up in size to over 100 editors! Over time, it also became more focused on not just Open Access, but Open Research in general and it is great to be part of this. My vision for the journal now is that it can do so much, due to its multidisciplinarity, its Open Access model and the Nature brand, to support research addressing the Sustainable Development Goals.

Enda Bergin: It was already changing quite a lot when I was here for the first time: in those four years the amount of fields in which we published increased, and the number of editors seemed to increase every week! The increase in size of the editorial team also had the effect of increasing the specialisation of each editor: in the early days you had to handle a broader range of topics, whereas now people can focus more deeply on specific areas of expertise. 

Nathalie, as somebody who joined Nature Communications from Nature, what attracted you to the journal?

Nathalie Le Bot: I joined Nature Research in 2006 and worked on several titles, including Nature. Although I have loved representing research communities by shepherding their work through publication, I have always regretted not being able to pursue all the very good articles that came to my desk. I joined Nature Communications because the journal offers a platform to publish the excellent manuscripts editors receive if editors believe they are important enough for a field.

What’s the best bit about being part of Nature Communications?

Nathalie Le Bot: Without a doubt, the people, their insatiable scientific curiosity and their desire to serve their communities with enthusiasm regardless of what comes their way. These qualities mean that we can guide a wide variety of manuscripts peer-reviewed fairly and solidly and then make them available to all to read and the results pursued further.

Fiona Gilliespie:  What I love most about Nature Communications is the amazing and diverse team of Editors, Editorial Assistants, Production Editors, Proofreaders and more! The team have always been incredible to work with, but this is made all the more evident during the current COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, in which we're all finding new and unique ways of keeping in touch across the world.

Enda Bergin: Some mix of all the things I have mentioned above! It’s hard to pick, but I have to say that without all the great people I work with this job would be a lot harder.

Elisa De Ranieri: I give the same answer to everyone who asks me this question: it is most certainly the people! Our editorial team, as well as our other colleagues in other functions, are what makes the journal special: committed, open-minded and approachable individuals who love science and champion their own research communities. We could not ask for more! 

Over the last ten years, Nature Communications has changed greatly — growing from four editors to one hundred and one across three continents and from publishing one hundred and fifty articles to over five thousand a year. We asked our senior management team what it is like to run a journal of this size, one that covers a huge breadth of science and has often been a leader in the Nature Research family of journals for open and transparent scientific publishing.

Elisa de Ranieri, our Editor-in-Chief, Nathalie le Bot and Enda Bergin, our Chief Editor for Life Sciences and our Chief Editor for Physical Sciences, respectively, and Fiona Gilliespie, our Managing Editor, were kind enough to give us their thoughts.

Elisa de Ranieri

Nathalie le Bot

Enda Bergin

Fiona Gillespie