Some Questions to Mark Lautens
Mark Lautens took over as Editor-in-Chief of SYNTHESIS in 2022. We asked him some questions – and he answered.
Davenport Chemical Laboratories
University of Toronto
Toronto, Ontario M5S 3H6
Get to know Mark better:
You are with SYNTHESIS for over 20 years. Why?
I have stayed with SYNTHESIS because I like the people I work with. That includes the very thoughtful staff, who are all PhDs (in chemistry), the Board members and the family that lead the journal. I am loyal (to a fault) and as long as people are fair with me I stay the course.
After serving as a regional editor for SYNTHESIS for many years, you now took over the position of Editor-in-Chief. How do you feel about it?
It is an honor to take over the Editor-in-Chief position and to be the first from outside Europe to hold this role. I think it speaks to our ambition to increase our international footprint and attract more authors from around the globe.
What do you do in your free time, when you are not Editor-in-Chief of SYNTHESIS?
I love to travel, though doing so has been severely curtailed for the past 2 years. So travel has meant long walks, hikes, cross-country and alpine skiing, biking. Essentially anything with movement. I reached 2993 km of walking in 2021 and I think that speaks to never quite reaching your goal but enjoying the moments. I also enjoy eating creative cuisine and I seek that out wherever I go. A little wine with great food never hurts (and often helps).
If you had three wishes – what would these be?
Three wishes is probably not enough. But if granted 3, I would wish for 1) good health and happiness for my children, 2) a world with a lot less conflict and hate and 3) a decent wine cellar and friends to enjoy trying to empty it before I expire.
If you could change a single thing in scientific publishing – what would that be?
If I could change one thing it would be to stop the focus on impact factors. I hesitate to reveal my vintage but I am old enough when citations and IF did not exist in any substantive way. We of course tried to publish in the top journals, but if we did not it was not a disaster. We picked journals based on what made sense, not how to have maximum "impact". As I get older I am more and more fed up with rankings of one kind or another and the bragging rights that go along with them. I recall years ago we were about to hire a senior person and someone mentioned their "h-factor". I had been blissfully unaware of this term but once it entered my lexicon, of course I also cared. Constant comparisons don't help our psyche or our relationships with our colleagues. I could go on and on but I was asked to only think of one thing.
How has the pandemic changed the work as an Editor (in-Chief) for SYNTHESIS?
The pandemic had zero effect on me as an editor, at least in terms of day-to-day work. Of course it was harder for authors to revise manuscripts if referees wanted more experiments. Sometimes that posed a massive challenge for them (and me as an author).
I deeply missed seeing my students on a regular basis, even if only for a casual conversation. I felt far less connected to the new ones who arrived and felt bad for our short-term visitors, who rarely met me in person. I hold my relationship with group members high on my list of why I like my job (and at times why it can be difficult if tension arises between you and a student).
Thank you, Mark, for your answers!