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Waiting for Confirmation from Authors/Contributors and Coping With Suggested Changes
After pressing ‘send’ on our first email invitations we didn’t have long to wait until our first responses came back. The responses varied from flat refusals with little explanation, which were a little deflating, to flattering acceptances. The most common reason for refusal seemed to be that those contacted did not feel they would have the time to commit to the project. This was completely understandable and we were pleased that people were ready to be up front with us rather than committing and not delivering when required. When we received one of these emails, or were unable to contact someone, we simply moved to the next person identified for the chapter on our list of potential contributors.
Many of the respondents to our emails requested a Skype meeting to further discuss the book, prior to their commitment. This made for some very interesting conversations with lots of ideas given for themes that could be explored in our introduction and summary chapters. However, a couple of very highly regarded researchers did not necessarily agree with the direction in which we were taking the book. While we received lots of positive comments, these suggested changes were sometimes difficult to hear. The instinctive first response (similar to receiving dreaded reviewer comments to a paper you have spent months putting together) is that the other person is wrong and that your way is better. However, this also leads to worries that these respected people are actually making a good point and you should completely change direction. In the end we decided to take some of the comments on board and changed some of the content in our chapters to incorporate the suggestions that would then enhance our book. With others we had to be confident in the thorough nature of the Elsevier review process and trust that our approach was a valid one.
Slowly but surely we began to gain the acceptances that we needed, but there is always one chapter which just won’t fall into place! In our table of contents we had a particular topic area for which we sent over five requests to different groups without gaining a single acceptance. This was difficult, as we were keen to complete the table of contents and move on to the next phase. We felt like we had several options: write the chapter ourselves; ask colleagues whose arms we might be more likely to twist; or keep trying. We considered the first option seriously but felt like we had already committed as much of our time as we could to the book, and that another chapter from us would not bring the varied opinions or perspectives we needed. We did ask colleagues but our powers of persuasion weren’t as good as we thought! This meant we were left with continuing to search. Thankfully, the person we approached next, whom we found when updating our literature search for one of our chapters, accepted and our table of contents was finally complete.
In the end, it felt like this entire process had also helped us to “meet” and establish relationships with fellow biochar researchers globally—an opportunity to widen our networks in several months that would have otherwise take years. So, another reward that we had not foreseen, and for which we are grateful.
About the Authors
Dr. Komang Ralebitso-Senior
I am an early stage academic with a keen interest in research, and research-led teaching, on how microbial communities are studied and then exploited in different environmental biotechnologies. My senior lectureship with Teesside University in 2006 was my first academic post following postdoctoral fellowships in Singapore and Oxford. I really enjoy working in successful partnerships with different colleagues especially where we do research across disciplines, share ideas and learn from each other. So co-editing a book with Caroline will go down in my memoirs as one of my career highlights.
Dr. Caroline Orr
I am a relatively early stage researcher whose area of expertise is in molecular ecology specifically looking at functional microbial communities within the soil. I first joined Teesside University a couple of years ago as my first lectureship position following my PhD and a small amount of postdoc work. When I first joined the University I was keen to establish myself as a researcher not just a member of teaching staff but struggled initially to juggle the two. I was quickly introduced to Komang who was interested in research similar to my own area.
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