Professor Jenny Wilkinson is an Associate Editor for Hindawi’s Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine (ECAM). She is an Associate Professor and Course Director at Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, NSW. She has a BSc with majors in physiology and pharmacology from the University of Queensland, Brisbane, and a PhD in Vertebrate Physiology from Macquarie University, Sydney. As well as her exemplary teaching record, and speaking at conferences, her work has been published and cited on numerous occasions.
What is your background and how did you become a researcher in your field?
I have a science background and started my research with an interest in pharmacology of caffeine in pregnancy. When I started a new position a few years after completing my PhD, I found that I was in a multidisciplinary biomedical science environment and I got together with a number of colleagues to look at projects that appealed to our combined research interests. As a result, I started working with a microbiologist on antimicrobial activities of essential oils and with a pharmacy academic on the use of complementary medicines. The Charles Sturt University was fairly young, so we had lots of flexibility to establish new research areas. It was great to work in new areas and harness our combined skills and knowledge.
What is your current area of research?
My core research is on the general use of complementary medicines, with a particular interest in pharmacology – use, effects, and modes of action – of natural products. I also have an interest in education and evidence-based practice for allied health students, who work with all ages and specialties.
What attracted you to the position of Associate Editor for Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, and Hindawi as a publisher?
I was attracted to the position of Associate Editor for Hindawi’s Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine for a couple of reasons. Obviously, it was a journal that was in my area of research, but I also have a strong view that researchers should give back to the research community. We can do that by being a reviewer for articles and grants, but we also need people to be editors and take on a broader role in both mentoring and shaping the discipline. I’ve also learned lots by being an Associate Editor. For example, as an Editor I see how tone and clarity of reviewer reports impacts on how authors respond to requests for correction. I can incorporate what I learn from this into my own reviewing and writing but also share with co-authors and students who I mentor.
Over the years I’ve been involved with this journal, I’ve been happy with the peer-review process and the way the Hindawi editorial office has managed questions or issues. In my time at Hindawi’s Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, I can see the quality of papers has risen and this reflects positively on both the journal and the way researchers view it. This research field is relatively small and having journals that are trusted is important. I also like the focus of the journal, particularly the focus on health outcomes and not just isolated components.
Which issue do you feel is most urgent in your field of work and do you have any predictions for the future?
I don’t know of any urgency in this field, at present, but I think that in the future we will see more work in areas from developing and non-English speaking countries. This enriches our understanding of the similarities and differences across all cultures and countries. Every research area goes through peaks and troughs of activity on certain topics. Currently, we have moved away from just documenting how many people use particular complementary and alternative medicines and are heading towards trying to understand their use in context in a particular society and also integration with mainstream medical practices. I think we will also see more research looking at the blending of practices from different traditions and incorporation of these approaches in health care, not just at individual user levels.
What are your thoughts on Open Access? How has Open Access helped you in your research?
Open Access has a bit of a mixed history and has previously been associated with low-quality journals. It is fantastic to see that this is no longer the case and that this model of publishing will become more mainstream. In part, this is due to the cost of more traditional journals, but it also fits better with the resources of smaller and emerging areas. Open Access improves exposure for researchers, improves access for those in developing countries, and means publishing isn’t just about who can afford journal subscription or what university or research institute you are employed by (and therefore have access to their library collection).
We’ve also seen a move away from being constrained by black and white photos and strict page limits in hard-copy journals to more flexible publishing and being able to get access to research almost anywhere in the world. The audience for my research is now much bigger and is opening up new ways of engaging with the wider community, not just researchers.
There is still some work to be done in peer-review; not so much the review process itself, although there is always room for improvement. What I’d like to see is that peer review is seen as a valuable – and essential – part of participation in the research community. All too often, providing review activities seems to be seen as something others do. I’d like to see this as part of promotion and recruitment criteria, so that it isn’t just about how many papers an individual has contributed to and cited, but also about their contribution as a researcher and scholar.
What advice would you give to a PhD researcher trying to write their first article?
In relation to writing up a paper, I think just give it a go – it can be a bit scary to write that first one, but don’t put it off. Always seek feedback along the way. The more you write the easier it will get. Try not to take reviewers’ comments personally; I’d like to think that reviewers provide supportive and constructive feedback, but it can still seem harsh when you have invested time and energy into a manuscript. Even the most published research will have had rejection letters or harsh comments, but then taking on board those comments and doing the rewrite is a major part of the process in creating a better paper. Take any opportunity that arises for you to give back to the research community by being a reviewer – you will learn so much by being part of the process and others will gain insight from you.
This blog post is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY). The illustration is by Hindawi and is also CC-BY.