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Journal Week pt 1 – Robert Garisto and the Secrets of PRL – Real Scientists

Journal Week pt 1 – Robert Garisto and the Secrets of PRL

unnamed2We’re happy to welcome our first curator for Journal Week here at Real Scientists – Robert Garisto (@RobertGaristo) is an editor for Physical Review Letters, published by the American Physical Society. We asked Robert our usual set of questions, you can read his reponses below.

I’ve wanted to be a scientist since I was three years old.  I was enthralled by the dinosaurs at the Museum of Natural History in New York City.  Soon I became interested in astronomy.  Since one can see few stars from Manhattan, I mostly explored astronomy and astrophysics via books.  What I really wanted was to “understand the Universe.” By the time I was in my mid teens, I knew I wanted to be a physicist. But you might want to know how I came to be an editor.  For that, you’ll have to read some of my tweets. 🙂

My PhD is in theoretical particle physics.  I chose that field of study in part because I thought it would be the best way to “understand the Universe”, and in part due to the spectrum of possibilities and people at my graduate institution. But as an Editor for PRL, my horizons have expanded.  I really think that all physicists, whether they are studying Higgs bosons, ultracold gases, or metamaterials, are probing the Universe.  It’s all good.  Being an editor for Physical Review Letters (@PhysRevLett), one of the leading physics journals, my main job is to decide which manuscripts submitted to us we will accept. For this I rely mostly on peer review – I ask experts to carefully evaluate papers and provide their perspectives on the importance and interest of the work.  I then weigh all the information I have, and reach a decision.

I also help pick which papers we highlight.  That is how I initially became involved in twitter – tweeting mostly about our highlighted papers.  I have also been involved with quite a few initiatives we have embarked on over the years, and help chart PRL’s course into the future.

I have had the great good fortune to have been involved with handling some truly momentous papers, including the observation of the top quark, the discovery that neutrinos have mass, and the first direct detection of gravitational waves by LIGO last year. Vetting is key to science.  Many papers are improved by the peer review process, and quite a number are found to be seriously flawed.  Science is self-corrective, and peer review is an important component of that. Further, at PRL we publish some of the best physics research around.  Many PRLs lead to stories in the science press – about one PRL a day is covered somewhere in the media. I have written some popular science pieces, and am slowly working on a book or two (the uncertainty in number gives you a sense of how far they are from completion). I give talks about PRL at conferences and when I visit institutions.  People do not know quite what to expect from an editor’s talk.  That is one reason I like to call my talks “Secrets of PRL.”

In my spare time, I like running, and occasionally run in 5K races, where I tend to be in the middle of the pack.  I vainly attempt to play the piano.  I love exploring places I visit around the world.  I have an 8″” telescope which is overmatched by the bright suburban lights.  I periodically convince myself to try gardening again—just yesterday I harvested one very carefully tended green bean.

I’m also a news junkie, but let’s not talk about that.  The only time I get to dabble in research, or work on a book, is on a day off.  So I would say accomplishing a little on such a project, eating a meal outdoors, going for a run to the beach, playing a little piano, reading something interesting, listening to some music, and indulging in some sci-fi or smart comedy.


Please welcome Robert to Real Scientists!

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