About Me

Thanks for visiting this site and this page, and giving me the opportunity to tell you something about myself.

swills-headshot-200The short version: Since December 2013, I’ve served as the editor and content director for Optics & Photonics News, the monthly news and member magazine of The Optical Society.  Before that, I worked for 14 years as the online editor of Science, one of the world’s preeminent journals of scientific research, news, and commentary, eventually reaching the senior position of Editorial Director, Web and New Media, in which I helped to shape the strategy and direction of the Science sites in a highly collaborative framework. And my efforts in these posts cap decades of experience working with words as an editor and writer.

A Few Highlights

Some of the things I did in my time at Science in particular:

  • Worked to encourage digital-first thinking at a journal with a long, proud print history.
  • Got Science‘s editorial operation started with podcasting, online video, interactive data visualization, social media and other Digital Age goodies, with the help of a very talented team of developers and editors.
  • Chaired, managed, or participated in working groups to shape Science‘s digital strategy.
  • Oversaw complex, multi-vendor projects in Web site redesign and redevelopment, as well as smaller user-research projects, all with the aim of maximizing the user value (and, thus, the business value) of Science‘s networked presence.
  • Served as a business champion (and, in some cases, hands-on implementer) for needed workflow and process changes related to core standards such as XML, and as an in-house resource and expert in the larger realms of Web and scholarly communication standards and content strategy.


Here are a few attributes and motivations that I believe have helped me provide unique value to my employers and colleagues:

Thinking strategically — and getting the job done. End-to-end thinking underlies everything I do. I have been praised for my ability to take a sometimes bewildering variety of “facts on the ground,” synthesize them into a cogent argument, communicate that argument effectively, and find the next steps to moving forward.

Walking the business-technology tightrope. In The Inmates Are Running the Asylum, software designer Alan Cooper wrote that “the successful professional of the twenty-first century is either a business-savvy technologist or a technology-savvy businessperson.” My work in scientific communication has been all about finding technical solutions to business and editorial problems, and realizing business and editorial opportunities from new developments in technology.

The perspective of a scientist, the mind of an editor. My educational background includes both a highest-honors degree in English from UCLA, and a Ph.D. in geology and geophysics from Columbia. That combination, along with my long editorial experience, helps me to view the challenges and opportunities of our business from the viewpoint of both the author and the reader/user.

A passion for good prose. We live in an era increasingly dominated by visual messages and multimedia storytelling, and my work at both OPN and Science has indeed explored the many ways to leverage digital media for a richer experience. But I have never lost my appreciation of the power of good writing to persuade, shape ideas, and change the world.

And When I’m Not Working?

A few things I like to do when not at the office:

  • Learning, and enjoying, ballroom dancing with my wife of three decades, Margaret.
  • Learning to play the piano (an effort started late in life).
  • Going on long walks with audiobooks on European history.
  • Riding, maintaining, and patting the maroon gas tank of my Yamaha V-Star 250 — a ride destined to earn me little respect in biker bars, but that gets 75 miles per gallon . . . which I find very respectable indeed.

Finally, I had the opportunity and good fortune a few years back to record two complete audiobooks for the wonderful online volunteer community LibriVox — recordings of Lord Jim and Moby Dick. The latter recording, thanks to the amazing depth of Melville’s novel, has been one of the community’s most praised projects and has, according to its page on the Internet Archive, logged 3,712,169 downloads.

[Contact Stewart]