Spotlight on...Bennett Young

29 April 2017 - By: Sarah Blackford

Spotlight on...Bennett Young

Bennett Young

By Sarah Blackford

“Communicating and building relationships with people is the best part of my job,” says Bennett Young, assistant editor of SEB’s Journal of Experimental Botany (JXB). “It’s a great job if you like to be in the academic world, but don’t want to be doing the research yourself.”

Working in the office adjacent to mine on Lancaster University’s campus, I’m surprised when Bennett tells me he is already in his fifth year of working for the JXB; tempus fugit! Five years represents the publication of 62 journal issues and 40 special issues, during which time Bennett, alongside his colleagues, has played a pivotal role in managing the manuscript submission and handling process. “My job is very varied and involves working with the on-line administration system, as well as liaising with authors, reviewers and editors,” he explains. “Building a good rapport with everyone is as important as ensuring the process runs smoothly to ensure a prompt service, quality papers and timely publication.” Central to journal quality control is peer review, which Bennett is responsible for overseeing: “I work with our editors throughout the process to assist them with, or anticipate, any issues which may arise during peer review. This could be simply advising an editor on editorial policy, through to more complicated ethical issues associated with, for example, image manipulation – cases are rare, but it does happen.”

Selling skills

Bennett’s interest in science communication started during his PhD on programmed cell death in plants at Manchester University, when he was involved in public outreach events. However, science communication jobs are harder to come by outside of London and so, after graduating in 2010, Bennett cast his net more widely: “I wasn’t keen to work in the lab,” he explains, “but I didn’t really know what else I could do. I knew I got on with most people and was a good communicator so I thought I’d give sales a try.” Having signed up with a recruitment agency, Bennett submitted his application to a medical devices company and followed it through with a phone call. As luck would have it, the manager who would be interviewing for the job answered the phone and, after a good chat with him, he was invited to attend an interview. An hour later he was offered the job. “I wasn’t a typical salesman,” says Bennett, “but that seemed to work well with some of the doctors, who appreciated my honest and straightforward approach, as well as my scientific grounding.” However, sales is a tough life with lots of travelling and not always a welcoming reception from customers, so after six months in the job, Bennett decided to get back to the world of academic science, which is when he spotted the assistant editor post being advertised by JXB. Drawing on his PhD and personal qualities, as well as further developed communication skills, he secured the job and started in March 2012.

Special mention

Bennett offers some advice to those considering a career in publishing: “The publishing industry is huge, with a whole variety of roles to suit everyone, depending on their core knowledge and interests. If you want to stay close to the science then commissioning, science writing or editorial roles are worth investigating; however, you can move further away from these into other less science-related positions such as production, sales, marketing, finance and IT. Considering his own enjoyment of communications and interest in plant science it seems that Bennett has found his ideal job: “One of the favourite parts of my work is being involved in producing our special issues. Because you work in cooperation with two or three editors from start to finish, you build up a good working relationship and rapport with them, as well as getting to meet them and the contributing authors during their conference. It’s great to be able to meet face to- face as well as seeing them present their research at first hand.” And on that note, we end our interview and Bennett heads back to the editorial office to check his emails, make some calls and organise his next conference trips – if you’re a plant scientist, look out for him on the JXB stand and he’ll be sure to give you a welcoming reception. 


Category: Plant Biology
Sarah Blackford - Author Profile

Sarah Blackford

Sarah Blackford is the head of education and public affairs at the SEB and the editor of the SEB magazine. As a qualified careers adviser and MBTI practitioner, Sarah provides career development and support for SEB members and the wider scientific community. Sarah is also an active member within SEB+, focusing on a number of initiatives aimed at improving gender equality and diversity in the science field.