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Patti Lockhart

Managing Editor, American Society of Plant Biologists

Patti LockhartPlease tell us a bit about yourself (e.g. hometown, current locale, course of study).

I grew up in a small town in Vermont and studied English literature at Tufts University. I spent my junior year in London and fell in love with life abroad. I ended up spending my post-college twenties managing a shoe shop on the King’s Road and teaching English in Barcelona. My husband and I moved to DC in 2007. We now live in Rockville, MD, with our two cats.

Describe some of your current responsibilities, and what type of organization you belong to.

I work for the American Society of Plant Biologists, and I am the managing editor of their two monthly journals, The Plant Cell and Plant Physiology. ASPB is a small, non-profit society that seeks to remain relevant in a rapidly changing environment. Our leadership is committed to finding ways to redefine and deliver value to our members, which makes for a creative work environment. I enjoy working at ASPB because that commitment is reflected in the support I receive for implementing change in the journals. My focus is on improving the experience of our authors, editors, reviewers, and readers, and all of my projects target at least one of these groups.

What was your first scholarly publishing role? How did you get that job? What path led to your current position?

In college, I worked as a copy reader for the MIT Press and spent a surreal summer reading text out loud to an irritable economist. I think I got the job because the first three candidates quit. Years later, when I returned to Vermont for family reasons, that experience helped me land a proofreading position at Capital City Press, where I eventually moved to the redactory department. In 2002, I founded the editorial department at the then-fledgling Dartmouth Journal Services, and I came to my current position at ASPB in 2011.

If there was a pivotal moment or key person in your career development, please describe briefly.

At Capital City Press, I was leader of the Rockefeller University Press (RUP) composition team. RUP was an early proponent of what is now the xml-in workflow, and my team worked on the refinement of a tagging product that eventually became eXtyles. Being part of that early production shift from print to digital content was both exciting and terrifying, and it got me hooked on publishing.

What are some of the surprises/obstacles that you’ve encountered during your career?

I did not realize how fluid this business is and how quickly expertise becomes obsolete! The skills I use today bear little resemblance to those I valued five years ago, let alone when I began working (in the ancient days of waxers and pica poles). I have no doubt that my job will continue to evolve as my career progresses. There is no “getting it” in scholarly publishing, and I’ve come to learn to love change.

What do you wish you knew more about?

How to make the content we publish stand out in a decentralized, unbranded environment.

What advice would you give to people interested in a career in scholarly communications?

Embrace change and try to avoid preconceptions. Don’t worry about not understanding everything and tackle things beyond your comfort zone. Always wear your seatbelt!