Today is my tenth anniversary as one of the academic archaeology journal Fornvännen‘s editors. While I was an undergrad my teacher Bo Petré encouraged me to subscribe from 1991 on, and I started contributing to the journal in 1994. That first contribution became a life-changer for me. It was my third-term paper, and when I called Fornvännen’s editor to ask if he wanted to look at it, he asked me what I was going to do next. “I’d like to do Early Iron Age small-finds”, I replied. “How convenient”, said Jan Peder Lamm, “I’m working on a paper that’s leading off into this funny artefact category that somebody should survey.” And so I did for my fourth-term paper, with Jan Peder as supervisor. And then he suggested the theme of my PhD thesis and became my first supervisor for that.
I could never really get angry at him for a) giving me a thesis subject that was way too big for a thesis, b) cutting me off further from the university department I was already estranged from because of the science wars. I was a modernistic scholar interested in small finds and the Iron Age before I knew Jan Peder. And he was happy to help me cultivate my interests. He also helped launch me into my life-style of many years, teaching me that it’s possible to survive as an unaffiliated scholar on grants from small private foundations provided you’re reasonably productive and don’t have expensive habits.
While I was writing that PhD thesis, Jan Peder also got me onto the editorial board of Fornvännen in April 1999. So, thanks ultimately to him, I have a really rewarding and well-paid steady part-time job as managing editor today!
You need contacts to get anywhere. But contacts don’t just pop into being, they’re made, unless you’re lucky enough to be in a position to inherit them. My story shows the importance of social skills (and ambition) on the part of the unknown newbie, and of generosity on the part of the old hand you approach. Jan Peder’s generosity is legendary.
(I actually have two reasons to celebrate today. This morning I donated my 35th bag of blood.)
Update 27 April: Two important tasks for me as an editor are to keep the average age of the contributors down and improve the gender ratio. In 1987, median age was 44 and 30% were women. In 1997, median age was 50 and 21% were women. In 2007-2008, median age was 41 and 28% were women.