Interview with PeerJ Section Editor Andy Farke

This week we interviewed PeerJ Section Editor Dr. Andy Farke as he prepares to take on his new position of Director of the Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology and step down from the role of Section Editor for Paleontology and Evolutionary Science*.

We would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Andy on his new position and thank him for the contribution he has made over the past three years as Section Editor. We are delighted that he will continue to support PeerJ as a valued member of the PeerJ Life and Environment Editorial Board.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself, and what brought you into your research?

I grew up in South Dakota, and learned about dinosaurs as a youngster. My home state is full of them, after all! I went on to do my undergrad work in geology (South Dakota School of Mines and Technology) and then graduate work in anatomy (Stony Brook University), before landing at my current institution, the Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology at The Webb Schools. Research in paleontology has been a thread through much of my life…I started as a middle school student (all of those semi-local dinosaurs, after all!), and kept it up until the present day.

Please explain the aspect of paleontology that your research focuses on.

My research primarily looks at Cretaceous life of western North America, with an eye towards understanding how animals and ecosystems evolved during the last 20 million years or so of the Age of Dinosaurs. Much of my work has focused on horned dinosaurs, like Triceratops, but I’ve diversified my research as we find different kinds of specimens on field expeditions. Nowadays, I’ve been dabbling in everything from horned dinosaurs to duckbilled dinosaurs to turtles. I’ve enjoyed the challenge of learning new groups, and working with some excellent collaborators!

You joined the Editorial Board of PeerJ when the journal was first launched over 8 years ago. What excited you about PeerJ that persuaded you to become an Academic Editor?

I have been a huge fan of open access for many years, and closely followed many of the innovations in scientific publishing since my time as a grad student. I had a great experience working with Pete Binfield (co-founder of PeerJ) when I was an editor at another journal, too. When I learned that Pete was part of the group starting up PeerJ, and that PeerJ was adding some unique innovations like an individual membership publishing model, I wanted to be a part of it!

What have you most enjoyed about your role as Section Editor of the Paleontology and Evolutionary Science section over the past three years?

I’ve really enjoyed working with my fellow section editors, Laura Wilson and Mark Young, and have learned a ton from them during our discussions over the years. Sometimes we have to make some tough decisions related to publishing standards or professional ethics; those are rarely fun or easy decisions, but I have valued being part of a team that can talk about such issues!

What would you say is the ‘best’ paper you have seen as a Section Editor and why?

I can’t pick a single “best” paper, but I do have a few that I particularly enjoyed seeing come through the journal. “Decomposition of dinosaurian remains inferred by invertebrate traces on vertebrate bone reveal new insights into Late Jurassic ecology, decay, and climate in western Colorado, by Julia McHugh and colleagues, was a really fun one, because they got a ton of data out of what is often considered “scrap bone.” Basically, they found that a lot of what many paleontologists consider “unimportant” (because it’s not identifiable to bone type or species) can hold lots of data about the kinds of invertebrates that were breaking down the flesh on rotting dinosaur carcasses. It was a neat way to turn typical paleontological research on its head, and a good reminder that it can pay to focus on the details of bones!

What would you say to other members of the Editorial Board that may be considering a Section Editor role at PeerJ? Is it something you would recommend?

I definitely recommend volunteering as a Section Editor if you have some editorial experience under your belt already, and if you’re ready to step up and take a bigger role in setting the direction of publishing in your particular field at PeerJ. My biggest piece of advice is to remember that you’re never alone. You can always discuss things with your fellow section editors, and the journal staff are also fantastic! I really value the big picture perspective that the PeerJ staff editors and assistants and other crew bring, and it’s been fun to get to know them professionally, too. They’re the best!

You are stepping down from the role of Section Editor whilst you pursue the next step in your career. Please tell us about the new role you will be taking on.

As of July 1, I’ll be stepping into the role of director for my institution, the Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology at The Webb Schools. I’ve been here for nearly 13 years as a curator, so I’m excited to take a new direction for my career. Because I had been in the section editor position for three years, it seemed like a good time to step aside in that role. The section editing team is still in good hands!

Thank you for your thoughts, is there anything else you want to highlight?

Even though I’m not going to be a Section Editor any longer, I’ll be sticking around as an Academic Editor for PeerJ. I love the editorial experience at the journal, as well as the opportunity to support my discipline through editorial service.


*Andy will be stepping down from his role of Section Editor in May 2021.

You can read more about our PeerJ Sections here.

Introducing our four new Section Editors for PeerJ Life and Environment.

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