Tuesday, February 26, 2008

To edit or not to edit

..that is the question. Or rather; that WAS the question on two separate occasions. This year, I've had two separate offers from two different publishing houses of putting together and editing a book within my field of research. One of the offers was strictly regarding a state-of-the-art review, whereas the second one was also meant for use in PhD level courses. Talk about the bee's knees - not only would I get my name on the cover of, potentially, two books, but I'd also get to author several chapters, and if and when the book breaks even sales-wise, I might even get royalties. CV filler AND potential source of revenue - that's hard to beat. PhD students all over the world might even curse my name for including all those triple integrals and poorly hidden quantum mechanics, which would be a bonus.

Yet on both occasions, I politely declined. It was a close call, and it seems to make sense now, but maybe I'll kick myself down the road for turning down these opportunities. Let's see if my arguments make sense when they're summarized:
  • Aside from the fact that editing a book like this is a truckload of work and initially a thankless job (constantly reminding contributors of deadlines - the literary version of "Are we there yet? How about now?"), this ain't typically what you do when you're as new to the game as I am. Editing science books is often regarded as a hobby for full professors with a long track record in the field, with already-built and functioning research groups, and a steady source of funding. I don't exactly fit that profile.
  • With a few notable exceptions, all the people I'd ask to contribute would be older, more experienced and probably better suited for the job than me. I'd be the junior author, and thus prone to receiving all kinds of advice from my not-quite peers, which would lead to Monday-morning quarterbacking, followed by more hassle and cracking of whips for me. For no extra benefits, I might add.
  • The books wouldn't show up in WOS, and consequently editing of these books would halt the development of my h-factor, which is hardly a good idea at this point in time. At present, I think my time is better spent publishing my research in good journals, thus building my reputation.
  • Even though books like these are advertised as state-of-the-art, the sheer process of publishing one of these things entails that the content is at least on year - or more likely 18 months - behind the cutting edge. One might even argue that journal articles are six to twelve months behind the curve, but at least they're way closer to the cutting edge. Not to mention that they help build my h-factor.

.....the decision still makes sense to me. That being said; I'd love to edit a book like this at one point, but not right now.


Anders said...

...editing of these books would halt the development of my h-factor, which is hardly a good idea at this point in time.

But your m-factor is sky-high. That gotta count for something, even in Academia. Right?

Wilhelm said...

My m-factor is pretty decent. I'm still working on using "Moreover" in the title, though. That would have been pretty sweet :-)