Reflections of an Editor-in-Chief: Q&A with Dr Daniel Murphy

February 25th, 2020

To celebrate his time as Editor-in-Chief of Australian Systematic Botany, we spoke to Dr Daniel Murphy about his time working on the journal as he prepares to hand over the role.
Dr Daniel Murphy standing in front of green grass with a superimposed image of the cover of Australian Systematic Botany next to him.

Dr Daniel Murphy has shared his experience of his time as Editor-in-Chief of Australian Systematic Botany.

Dr Daniel Murphy is the President of the Australasian Systematic Botany Society and a Senior Research Scientist and Molecular Systematist at the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria in Melbourne where he uses the living and herbarium plant collections for molecular research and morphological research on plant systematics, biogeography, taxonomy, macroecology and plant-animal co-evolution.

He is also the Editor-in-Chief (EiC) of Australian Systematic Botany and, after seven years at the helm, he’s passing the baton. We spoke to Dan about his time editing the journal and asked him to share his thoughts about the experience.


Why did you take on the role of EiC for the Journal?

Well I would like to say it was a life-time ambition, but the truth is I was thinking about doing some more editing, and at the same time the journal was looking to find a new Editor-in-Chief. My colleague Mike Bayly, who was EiC at the time, asked me if I would be interested. I had wanted to do some more editing to get a better overview of the complete field of plant systematics, as I had started to take a broader interest in the Australasian plant systematics and biogeography. It has certainly given me that experience, but also many other experiences that I did not anticipate at the time.


What stands out as the main highlight of your time with the journal?

Probably the special issues, and the feeling of working as a team to create something that is so much larger than what an individual could achieve alone. The dedication of the team of Associate Editors, especially some of the guest editors, has been wonderful. The editorial standards of the journal, in particular how we check details, and the requirements for plant nomenclature, has been amazing. I feel we have really optimised that process due to the dedication of our specialist editors like our Nomenclature Editors, Brendan Lepschi and Anna Monro. I also have felt the overall team effort to put the journal together has been excellent.

Dr Daniel Murphy with colleagues inspecting a plant in the ground.

Dr Daniel Murphy (middle) with colleagues inspecting a plant on a field trip. (photo: author supplied)

What surprised you in the role, that you didn’t expect?

Meeting and working with dedicated and knowledgeable people, right across the whole spectrum of what is involved in a scientific journal. I would not really have thought of the people-side of things if you had asked me what editing involved. Many of the journal team I can now say have become close friends and colleagues. I also found I developed skills in dealing with sometimes difficult issues and became more confident in decision making. It is not a bad thing to make clear decisions, even if they are negative for authors, as long as they can be justified, explained, and keep an eye on the greater goals of the whole process. I have made mistakes too but feel I have learnt so much about making decisions and helping others.


What do you hope for the future of the journal?

Like most editors I hope that the journal continues to meet the needs of the core readership and authors, but also expands on these incrementally over time. I feel the journal has made some changes over the past seven years, that have reflected some of my own research interests, and I feel the scope of the journal has shifted a little (hopefully this has been seen as interesting and beneficial). I do think overall the journal remains very successful, and this development of the journal has kept me interested. I am going to be most curious (and supportive) now that we have a new editor, Darren Crayn, taking over the EiC role.

Dr Daniel Murphy and fellow botanists in a forest environment on a field excursion to to Forest Dynamics Plot in Yambaru, Okinawa Island, Japan.

Dr Daniel Murphy (second from right) and his colleagues on a field excursion to to Forest Dynamics Plot in Yambaru, Okinawa Island, Japan. (photo: author supplied)

What advice would you give someone considering working as an Associate Editor or Editor-in-Chief?

It can be a lot of work (often at inconvenient times) but is really interesting and allows you to expand your knowledge and network of colleagues (and hopefully friends). It can be a thankless task, so don’t go into it for selfish reasons or expecting recognition. I feel the editors at ASB are a great team and have the best interests of the journal, science and authors most definitely as their main focus.


Cover of Systematic Botany, volume 33, issue 1, 2020.

Australian Systematic Botany journal

From the whole team at CSIRO Publishing, we thank Dan for his commitment to Australian Systematic Botany and wish him good luck in his post-EiC career.

Australian Systematic Botany is published by CSIRO Publishing six times per year. Subscribe now or recommend the journal to your library and sign up to receive early alerts.