Meet the Editors

May 31, 2016

As mentioned in our previous blog The Britannica Tradition of Quality, it takes a collection of great minds—including Britannica's in-house editorial staff and the expertise of curriculum specialists, contributors, designers, and Web developers—to deliver high-quality resources that make teaching and learning easier and more effective. Over the course of the next few months, I'd like to introduce you to several editors who play key roles here at Britannica.

Meet John Rafferty! He is the Associate Editor for Earth and Life Sciences. John has a B.S. in Environmental Science from St. Norbert College, a M.S. in Environmental Science and Policy from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, and Ph.D. in Geography from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

With over 10 years of experience at Britannica, John’s area of expertise is in Earth and Life Sciences—specifically invertebrates, birds, mammals, reptiles, fish, weather, climate, ecology, geology, energy resources, and associated scientists.

Q&A:

Did you grow up on Britannica? I sure did! The print set anchored my parent’s bookcase, and it was my family’s primary resource for school-related topics and general information. I must have paged through the entire set three or four times during middle school and high school, writing reports on Gandhi and mountain goats, finding out answers to trivia questions, and proving to my sister that Nepal’s flag was the most unusual one of the bunch.

What's your favorite entry that you have prepared for Britannica? I have two: urban sprawl and ocean acidification. Both are important emerging topics that will affect life on Earth for some time to come. I was thrilled to have a chance to write them, and I think they provide good overviews of each phenomenon.

How has the editorial process changed throughout the years? How has technology impacted it? How has it impacted what we write about? Free from the constraints of space, the electronic product allows the author (whether it’s one of the experts we work with or one of us in Editorial) the room to fully explore new topics. This has resulted in a number of interesting and well-illustrated articles. Overall, I think the shift from print to electronic has increased our product’s value to our customers.

If you didn’t become an editor, what would you have done instead? Probably remain in higher education. I love teaching and helping others understand science, especially environmental science. Writing for Britannica has allowed me to research a number of topics I wouldn’t have explored as part of a teaching job. In addition, my colleagues in the Editorial Department know so much about so many different things that it’s easy to keep a balanced perspective about science, as well as about the facets of life in general.

What is it about the work you do that makes you most proud? Turning complex, jargon-filled information into something everyone can read.

What are you known for around the office? I’m the “natural disaster” person, in that, when a major earthquake or other disaster occurs, I’m the point person. I develop the article with another editor or two, pull together the media, and push the article through our workflow process so it can be up by the end of the work day. You can also hear my voice as the narrator on dozens of the videos we produce in-house.

If you could have dinner with one person (dead or alive), who would it be? If I had to pick three: Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and Bill Nye (the Science Guy).

What do you want to Ask the Editor? Post your questions on Facebook and Twitter using #meetblearn. Also, check back often as I will be introducing other key Britannica editors and team members!