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The Process of Co-Editing
As the chapters for our book started to come in we were faced with the task of editing. We wanted to split the work evenly, be as efficient as possible, but also try to make certain that we had both seen all the chapters. As far as writing together was concerned, we had already written a critical review, a book chapter, and grant applications; we teach on the same modules where we often moderate each other’s assessments; and we have co-supervised some internally funded projects. Throughout these processes we had learned that we like bouncing ideas off each other; and fortunately, we work well together even though we don’t necessarily agree on everything!
We initially agreed on a strategy in which we would both read the same chapter together. However, when the first chapters actually started coming in we revised this so that we each read a chapter, made our edits (thank God for Track Changes!) and then swapped to make sure that the style was consistent. This was akin to our first and second marker approach when we assess postgraduate and undergraduate research articles and dissertations, so it came quite naturally and proved to be rather effective. As we work quite closely together we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and have found a nice and complementary balance.
This process of sharing the load meant that one of us was almost always available to field queries, respond to e-mails from Elsevier/Marisa or contributors, provide pre-submission support when required, and draft/write the next blog post. The juggling process was heightened when it came to continuing to write our own chapters, especially as we had managed to time this so that it clashed with the beginning of a new academic year. If and when we were to do this again, identifying the timings of critical points would definitely be something that we would consider in more detail. The ethic of picking up the load for each other when necessary translated very nicely into our joint editing process. Again, another reminder of the importance of working with someone whom you like, respect, and appreciate.
The process itself was also very helpful as we identified information from different submissions that would subsequently inform our introductory and summary chapters. This helped to expand and consolidate some of the ideas we had when we first proposed the book. It also allowed us to continue to build on the key comments from our proposal referees where we ensured coherence while still maintaining the individuality of chapters that were true to their contributors (we appreciated that being editors did not give us carte blanche on the science and stories of our authors).
Overall, the editing process was a learning curve. At times it felt like an endless process. There were also times when we felt a large amount of responsibility when it came to making the final decisions. Could we potentially offend our contributors by heavily editing their grammar? Would we potentially look stupid by asking for further clarification on paragraphs that we didn’t fully understand? Helpfully, Marisa was prepared to provide feedback on our editing process by looking at one of our first edited chapters and affirmed our decisions and overall approach. We would like to think that all these feelings are because, yes we are new to this, but mostly we just want to produce a good book that will be of value.
About the Authors
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.
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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