Interview with Pest Management Science's outgoing editor Gerry Brooks

19 Jan 2012

After 21 years Pest Management Science editor-in-chief Gerry Brooks is to hand the reins over to long-serving executive editor Steve Duke.

How did you decide you wanted a career in science?
I had very good science teachers at school. I just had to succeed, as it would be unimaginable to let them down! Though I did spend time in railway signal boxes in the great days of steam, instead of doing my homework, and so acquired a taste for technology.

What have been the major milestones in your career?
The first was undoubtedly my attendance at a postgraduate college lecture on DDT. This led me into a somewhat non-traditional chemistry career and contact internationally with highly-talented people from many scientific disciplines. I solved a couple of problems that had eluded others which led to involvement with WHO, FAO, IAEA amongst others.

More a culmination than a milestone, I became the fifth UK scientist to receive the American Chemical Society International Award for Research in Agrochemicals in 2007.

What have you enjoyed most about being involved with Pest Management Science over the last 21 years?
I was on the editorial board of Pesticide Science (PS) from the 1970s until the title was changed to Pest Management Science (PMSci) in 2000, and EIC through all developments since 1990. It's been fascinating and enjoyable to witness the remarkable advances in all aspects of relevant science during the last 40 years and the journal affords an ideal way to keep in touch with both the science and international colleagues.

What have been the biggest challenges whilst you've been editor-in-chief?
One has to make fairly quick judgements about the relevance of manuscript submissions, especially as the submission rate has increased in recent years, along with the ever-broadening subject scope of the journal since the title change.

Instinctive diplomatic skills are essential in interacting with editorial board members and in occasional troubleshooting involving referees and authors. Not surprisingly perhaps, every scientist believes theirs is the only work deserving attention, which occasionally causes problems!

How has the practice of journal publishing changed since 1990?
Before 2003, when Manuscript Central [now called Scholar One Manuscripts] was introduced, manuscripts were handled by post. This was a vast improvement. Scientists want their work in print as quickly as possible so Early View, the online service, was a valuable advance.

How has science changed in that time?
The great changes from the 1960s onwards are evident in the Proceedings of the four-yearly, IUPAC International Congresses of Pesticide Chemistry. In particular, one may cite the application of the techniques of molecular biology in the elucidation of mechanisms of pesticide resistance.

Despite being the bane of pesticide innovators, the resistance problem has driven fascinating advances in biochemistry and has forced chemists to make remarkable advances to keep ahead of nature but with one eye on protecting the environment. Sadly, the complex science now involved seems impossible to explain simply to the public, who see only the downside of crop and health protection and remain suspicious of scientists' motives.

What challenges and opportunities lie ahead?
The challenges outlined above will remain and PMSci will continue to publish the advances as they arise. It often seems that those with the vital task of devising new bioactive agents receive less recognition than is given to those involved in environmental issues, important though these are. Of great promise is the marked increase in the submission of good work from the Asia- Pacific area; every effort will continue to be made to attract authors from this area and from the southern hemisphere.

How can others become involved with the journal and what is the benefit?
Scientists who can act as expert referees will always be welcome, especially as the submissions we receive now often involve more than one discipline. We put an annual acknowledgement to referees in the journal and it may be advantageous for one's CV to be listed as an editorial or executive editorial board member. The journal content will attract expert readers in relevant fields and stimulate them to contribute their work. In a promotional context, spotlights, perspectives and reviews may attract wider attention than the detailed research reports.

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