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Editor Spotlight: Meet Dr Liu Zhifei

Editors | Researchers
Editor Spotlight: Meet Dr Liu Zhifei

This blog is part of our ‘Editor Spotlight Series’. Look out for monthly posts where our Editors share insights into their roles and discuss trends within their specialist fields.

Dr. Zhifei Liu (State Key Laboratory of Marine Geology, Tongji University, Shanghai, China) is Section Editor for the oceanography section of GeoScienceWorld journal, Lithosphere. Dr Liu is a marine sedimentologist with research interests in deep-sea sedimentary dynamic processes and land-sea interaction on various time scales, including in-situ submarine mooring observations on present-day processes, Quaternary glacial-interglacial variations, and geological evolution since early Cenozoic. He focuses on proxies of detrital sediments mainly using clay and bulk mineralogy, grain size, major and trace elements, and neodymium and strontium isotope geochemistry.


Dr. Liu Zhifei


What is your background? How did you become a researcher at Tongji University?

During my PHD study, I majored in Sedimentology of Solid Earth Sciences, focusing on the evolution of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and how it impacts global climate change.

Marine science is important to the study of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. That is why I pursued my post-doctoral studies on marine science-related disciplines in Tongji University, including Marine Geology and Paleoceanography. Tongji University is a well known comprehensive and research-intensive university with a wide range of disciplines, and has it’s department of Geosciences, especially Marine Geology, Paleoceanography and Geophysics, are among the most advanced in China. After finishing my post-doctoral studies, I was fortunate enough to have the  opportunity to stay and work at Tongji.

What attracted you to the position of Editor at Lithosphere?

I had three main reasons for becoming an Editor at Lithosphere; Firstly, I hope to help expand the coverage of Lithosphere to combine marine science with a wider range of geology disciplines, and promote interdisciplinary development. Secondly, most of my research experience has involved international cooperation. As an Editor for Lithosphere, I will have the opportunity  to access excellent scientific research worldwide, against which I can measure my scientific research progress and management skills. Lastly, as a Chinese researcher, I hope to encourage other Chinese scientists to focus on their research  on scientific research, improve their international influence and help communicate their  excellent scientific achievements more widely.

What contribution does Lithosphere make to scientific research and social value?

It has been over 10 years since the first issue of Lithosphere was published. It is highly influential in solid earth geology-related fields, such as crust, petrology, and mantle studies and is thus well known and thought of by Chinese and Asian solid earth geologists. However, it is less influential in oceanographic fields, such as seawater, seafloor sediment and seafloor rock studies. Geology and oceanography belong to different scientific fields, so only a few oceanographic scientists have published articles in Lithosphere. Now Lithosphere is expanding  its coverage from solid earth geology  to the entire realm of Earth Sciences. As a result, marine sciences is included. I believe that Lithosphere has  promising potential to help develop and increase its influence in oceanography.

Do you consider the journal to be a good forum for sharing and highlighting the contributions of Chinese researchers in this field?

Since starting  as a Lithosphere Editor at the end of 2019, I have noticed that over the past few years about 30% of the scientific research published in Lithosphere has been contributed by Chinese scientists, especially in the fields of Geology, Petrology, and Solid Earth Sciences. As the coverage of Lithosphere expands, I believe that in the future it will certainly attract more excellent research in different disciplines such as marine sciences, atmospheric sciences, and environmental sciences. Its advantage in interdisciplinary subjects will  become increasingly prominent.

Does the prospect of publishing in this journal make it easier to find and form collaborations with researchers overseas?

In this regard, Lithosphere does have great potential. At present, each field has its own main academic journals: solid geology and oceanography have their own range of journals. But interdisciplinary research is on the rise. So as the coverage of Lithosphere expands it will attract more international readers from all fields related to Earth sciences, providing a welcoming  and open access platform between authors and readers. This will inevitably promote the cooperation and exchange between Chinese and overseas researchers who intend to publish articles in Lithosphere.

 What do you think is the most important topic/research field in Earth Sciences currently?

There are two important topics in Earth sciences. The first one is the process of the earth’s evolution, which is the basic theoretical underpinning  of Earth Sciences. Only by better understanding of the historical process of the earth’s evolution can we predict its future changes more accurately. The second is the impact of human activity on the planet, which is where Earth sciences can best contribute to society. 

What kind of advice would you give to early career researchers?

In the field of Earth Sciences, the most important thing is to develop a solid foundation. The basic process of earth movement involves multidisciplinary subjects. For example, the evolution of the ocean involves geology, physical oceanography, marine chemistry, etc. Understanding the basic knowledge behind these areas is fundamental to carry out in-depth and accurate research. In various fields of human study there are problems that have not yet  been solved. Scientific research is a difficult job that requires dedication and perseverance. Research requires students to read, interpret, and analyze new information, reshape their research questions, and often start again. Researchers should choose fields in which they are truly interested. Studying what you’re really interested in will stimulate unlimited potential, and researchers will also be more likely to achieve outstanding results, which may benefit generations of researchers to come.

What advice would you give to a PhD researcher writing their first article?

The first is to get familiar with your data, and understand and analyze your data in depth from the perspectives of its collection, characteristics, and the specifics of any changes in the data. This is the most basic requirement for writing an article.

The second is to study and process your data, and dig out the underlying information, patterns and meaning. This is critically important for a research paper that will reflect your creativity and innovation. It may be difficult, but it is key to improving your academic ability - this is where the true worth of an excellent scholar is demonstrated.

The third part is important but is not the most critical for the articles, because it is based on the second point. You should make an effort to bring out and enhance the novelty of your article and the underlying data. Combine the data with your own understanding to contrast and compare across a broader conceptual scope, so as to improve the innovative nature  of the paper.


Lithosphere has become an open communication platform for the entire field of Earth sciences, both  for  specific fields or across disciplines. Articles published here are more likely to be noticed by researchers in different fields. Our editorial team is committed to shortening the review cycle and improving the authors' submission experience. So doctoral researchers are most welcome to submit their first article to Lithosphere.

What kind of advice would you give to authors in the selection of journals?

When selecting journals, an author should analyze potential readers of his/her articles. If potential readers have a deep understanding of a topic in the field, then the author should choose a main journal in the field. If the research has the potential to be widely applied, the author may choose a journal with broader coverage. For example, if your research results on oceanography are also helpful to geological research, then Lithosphere would be a good choice as your research will be noticed across different fields as the journal reaches a wider audience of readers.

This blog post is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY). The illustration is by Hindawi and is also CC-BY.

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