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I finished my PhD a few months ago and am now settling into a postdoc position. The last 6-8 months of my PhD had been quite stressful (well, nothing unusual there, of course) and when it came to thinking about the next career step, all I knew was that I was a bit more inclined towards staying in academia than moving to the industry. So as soon as the offer for this postdoc came, I accepted. Just to prevent any confusion before I go any further: I am certainly not regretting that decision. As in, I am happy with my research work, one reason being its multidisciplinary nature (both physics & electronics are heavily involved). It is likely therefore that I continue on this career path.

But one never knows what life brings, so it is good to keep one's options open. So this is more about obtaining knowledge/collecting information for alternative career avenues.

In that regard, one area that sort of intrigues me is academic publishing. I have tried (by means of web-search, talking to the employees of scientific journals I met at a conference booth, etc.) to find out on how it is to be involved with the scientific-publishing industry, e.g., what does a typical day at the office look like, what are the challenges they face, what kind of freedom is possible in the various tasks, etc. But I somehow haven't received any concrete information based on which I could assess this as a potential career option.

So below are my main questions, asked from the perspective of a PhD/Postdoc. As such, any references (books/articles/memoirs) that may serve as a good introduction to this topic would be very much appreciated. Even more, if someone on this stackexchange community comes from a similar background, then it would be really great if he/she could share their experiences.

Q1. What kind of full-time career paths can be envisaged in the publishing industry?

(This is one advertisment that I recently saw. It sounds nice but I'd like a detailed description about the job role, for example).

Q2. How is the career progression? What kind of challenges does one typically face in this profession?

Q3. Are there any short-term jobs or internships suitable for PhDs/Postdocs in this field?

Q4. What are the typical exit options? For instance,

  • Is it easy to switch back to your research career (postdoc/professorship)?
  • What kind of secondary and tertiary industries, if any, be interested in hiring someone with an experience in the world of publishing?
  • As to Q4, to successfully switch back to a research job, you usually need to have a record of consistent research productivity, including publications. And that's hard to do if you are not associated with an academic institution, and have a full-time job doing something else. – Nate Eldredge Jun 1 '15 at 4:54
  • What field are you in? – jaybers Jun 1 '15 at 15:47
  • @jaybers : It would be electrical engineering and communication with a heavy focus on physics; I have included that information now. – jayann Jun 3 '15 at 2:18
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I'm in a similar situation, meaning that I'm also a recent (less than two months) Ph.D. graduate and currently focus my effort on a job search (both in industry and academia). The differences between you and me include the discipline (not essential) and my lack of postdoctoral (or any other, for that matter) job offers at the moment. Since I briefly have been considering a temporary career move toward a scientific publishing world, while I do not have a direct work experience in the scientific publishing industry, I think that I have browsed through enough job advertisements to form and share my opinion on the subject, as follows (certainly, take it with a grain of salt).

I consider the temporary career move toward scientific publishing that I've mentioned mostly as an industry career option and not an academic one. While in the context of scientific publishing, there is an intersection between classifying such career option as one of industry or academia, I believe that a career in scientific publishing cannot be considered as an academic career. Therefore, my first point is that, if you, as myself, consider academia as your main ultimate career avenue, going the scientific publishing route is not a good option (unless it is very short-term and due to circumstances). Continuing my road terminology analogy, the above-mentioned avenue and route are not parallel, thus, after some time traveling the scientific publishing career route, one can find themselves too far from the academia career avenue. That will most likely make returning back to academia very difficult, if not impossible.

Based on various job descriptions that I've looked at, a career in scientific publishing seems to involve much less scholarly activities at the expense of much more project management, marketing and operational ones (especially, for non-senior editorial roles). Moreover, internal organizational politics, tight deadlines and other time-related issues, as well as stress of juggling multiple publication projects add insult to injury.

Finally, I personally dislike the scientific publishing industry's negative role due to lack of openness in dissemination of scientific information and corresponding strategies and tactics they use (that includes their "implementation" of the open access paradigm). Therefore, it would make even more difficult for me to work in such environment and organizational culture.

Considering all the above, I would not go the scientific publishing route, even temporarily, but, instead, would try my best to join academia as a postdoc or junior faculty member and progress there or, alternatively, go the real science-related industry route (less perfect, considering the ultimate goal, but, can be either temporary, or long-term, combined - in a form of consulting - with academic positions).

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