Today is International Women’s day and to mark the occasion we decided to celebrate one of our own amazing women and discuss a sometimes hidden part of the publishing process; production. We asked Radha Dutia, Production Manager about working with scientists, managing a team and what it takes prepare a scientific journal for publication.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you came to work in production?
I studied languages and journalism at university. I speak French and Spanish, and started out in publishing with journalism internships. I joined Oxford University Press as a Production Assistant and that put me on the path to becoming Production Manager here at Royal Society Publishing. I don’t have a science background, though now I work in scientific publishing, I wish I’d continued my scientific education a bit further.
Can you give us a quick introduction to the production process?
It’s our role to make sure that journals are published to schedule, and to the highest quality. The production team are brilliant at getting papers online, and issues sent to press. Between us, we manage a lot of relationships. We look after the proof readers, typesetters and three print companies, as well as making sure authors receive good service here as they do at the submission stage. We also have different types of print publications, for example, as Biographical Memoirs is quite different from the journals, we need a specialist printer who can do notch binding and foil printing. Even though our papers are predominantly read online, managing print is still part of working in publishing. Alongside the daily tasks we also have a number of projects at any given time. For example, we’ve recently released our archive and that involved a lot of work, particularly checking XML. We also helped a lot with the migration of our content from one platform to another, organising material, testing the new site, establishing new working flows and spot checking.
And what are the challenges of being a Production Manager?
It can feel overwhelming at times, lots of people have different types of problems, and of course, everything is urgent, so part of doing the job well just trying to get everyone an answer as fast as possible. To be in production you have to be really adaptable, and be good at problem solving. You have to think creatively about how to get things done in the most efficient method. As with every job we’re always fighting time trying to get lots of things squeezed into a single day. Getting a problem solved is real triumph, you get that Eureka feeling. Having a clean inbox is also great – it means we’ve managed to get at least one thing done. Also, I love the smell of printed journals – the ink is great.
I really enjoy being a manager – I love my team, they are wonderful (I’m not just saying that, promise). Seeing people learn the job, understand new things and do well does make it worthwhile. Production work as a very close team and we help each other when needed. It’s always better to have more people involved when trying to solve a problem as four heads are better than one. Someone will inevitably think of a solution I’d never have dreamed of – so I definitely enjoy having my team around.
And what’s it like to work for the Royal Society?
I certainly know more about science than I used to. There are a lot of science podcasts out there – I went to a recording and I’m almost embarrassed about the amount of in jokes I got. There’s a lots of popular science and really good coverage of science stories out there. It’s great to see people understanding the world they live in and also fun to have played a part in publishing work that gets a lot of attention. Last year there was a lot in the news about scientists who had taught whales to speak– that work was published by us. Sometimes first thing in the morning the radio goes on and I think I listen to the news and think – ah yes, that’s one of our papers.
Radha has continued her interest in street photography from her journalism days. The above image was taken by her. Follow Radha on Instagram: @oh.radha
Happy International Women’s Day.