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I am wondering whether a company employee can take a role of associate editor of a scientific journal. Let's take the following example.

Suppose I am a university professor, and my role is teaching and guiding students and doing research. At the same time, I am also taking a role as an associate editor of a scientific journal (SCI with good IF).

If I quit my job at the university and moved to a company/industry and my main role changed from teaching and research to focus on company products (of course science based products), then can I still continue my role as an associate editor of that journal?

My question is, how do researchers look at this?

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    I think the first question should be, how would the company and the journal look at this? If you do some of your work as an editor during normal working hours, the company might be unhappy. If you are completely unavailable except for some evenings and weekends, the journal likely won't be happy.
    – mlk
    Commented Mar 1, 2022 at 10:20
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    @mlk I think you greatly overestimate the responsiveness that journals expect.
    – jakebeal
    Commented Mar 1, 2022 at 20:09
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    Be careful of potential conflicts of interest. Make sure that both the editorial board and your company have clear policies and guidelines regarding these.
    – user9482
    Commented Mar 2, 2022 at 9:25
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    Many top journals in my applied CS field have associate editors and even editors-in-chief employed by Big Tech (Microsoft, Google, etc.), so the answer is evidently "yes".
    – xLeitix
    Commented Mar 2, 2022 at 14:54
  • @mlk Company employees work 8h/d, five days a week. Typical professors (my own anecdotal evidence ;) ) twelve to fourteen, including Saturdays.
    – Karl
    Commented Mar 2, 2022 at 22:46

5 Answers 5

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I am a researcher at a company and also an associate editor at two journals.

If a company supports research in any meaningful way, it will generally recognize the value of professional service (including editing journals, reviewing manuscripts, and organizing conferences) as part of scientific participation. You might be able to make your work as an editor part of your official job tasks, or you might need to do it "off the clock" - that will depend on both the company and the amount to time expected to be needed. In general, however, most companies will support volunteer professional service at least as far as not obstructing you.

If you would be paid for your work rather than being a volunteer, however, that would likely be significantly more complicated. Most researchers at companies are full-time salaried employees, and employment contracts often require that one get explicit permission and go through a conflict of interest process before accepting any second source of income.

Bottom line: volunteering is easy, getting paid is hard.

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  • Yes, it is volunteering.. getting NO paid... I think, as long as the main role is research, it is quite acceptable by everyone including the Publisher as well as other Editorial members of the Journal... But how it will be treated when the main role won't be research but to focus on producing good products of the company? Let's assume I will continue research outside of working hours and publish few collaborative and/or own papers every year..
    – Kay
    Commented Mar 2, 2022 at 0:50
  • @Kay Ask before you join the company. Most reasonable companies won't mind. You will need to determine, however, whether they would prefer for you to declare your affiliation as the company or as an independent researcher.
    – jakebeal
    Commented Mar 2, 2022 at 1:46
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Yes

There's nothing fundamentally against a non-university professor becoming an editor of a scientific journal. Such editors need to be experts in their field, and there are plenty of experts that aren't affiliated with a university. For example, Five IBM fellows have won the Nobel Prize. Surely they'd be suitable to edit a journal in their field (and most journals would be ecstatic to have them), even though IBM is not a university.

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You have not specified your field so I assume that this is a field where editors do not get a salary from the journals they are editors for. In this case, I know many people who are affiliated with a company but who also are associate editors in one or more research journals. Companies also do some decent R&D, but this has to be agreed upon with the HR or superior to make sure that it is fine. The people I know handle papers outside their work office hours.

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As an example, the International Journal of Forecasting has among its editors Domenico Giannone from Amazon and John Guerard from McKinley Capital Management. (Also a couple of people from central banks, probably not what you have in mind, though again, non-university.)

It all depends on the field, and on the journal. If you are an acknowledged expert in your field and based on this are invited to join an editorial board, then your expertise will not suddenly disappear when you leave academia. If your field is applied, then editorial members from outside academia may even be sought after to bring a little balance and diversity to editorial decisions.

Of course, if your position outside academia means that you do less research, then your expertise may indeed become dated. If you have gone five years without publishing, then you may not be invited back in the next turnover of the editorial board. Then again, your editorial work may be enough to keep your knowledge up to date.

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I am an associate editor of a well-respected journal (arguably the top journal in my field, which is a branch of CS/math/engineering). I have never worked for a university, and have published very few research papers, though I do conference talks every once in a while.

The companies I have worked for have been happy about my editor position, because it gives the company some visibility and credibility, and helps to maintain connections with academia. There has never been any mention of conflict of interest.

The journal and conference organisers are happy because I provide useful insights into interesting industrial problems and the real-world relevance of research.

The journal doesn't pay me, but I don't think there would be a problem even if they did.

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