Parallel Session F

Local assistance of scientists and institutes by editors
Moderator : Eric Lichtfouse, INRA, Dijon, France

Being an Editor is an unknown and thankless job. Let us change that! This session will share examples of ways in which editors have established means of helping to improve editorial practice within their  own institute, university or research center. Editorial help includes actions such giving scientific writing workshops, pre-checking papers from colleagues before submission, defining publication policy with institute managers, collaborating with colleagues involved in bibliometrics and trend analysis, creating an online information on publications, and any other action that transfer editorial knowledge to your peers.


Editing, hands-on, face to face
Carolyn Brimley Norris, University of Helsinki Language Services, Finland
[email protected]

In Finland, I am a medical author’s editor, but I also have the privilege to teach physicians at the University of Helsinki to polish their writing for international journals before it passes through my hands in my other role. In eight University writing courses per year for MD specialists earning the PhD in medicine, my approach is hands-on—learn by doing. Their English skills are already excellent because of long English studies, much travel, and no dubbing of TV/films. Information from EASE conferences and ESE regarding the current needs of medical journals is vital, but I never lecture and show on screen lists of do’s and don’ts. Instead, these doctors, in pairs, edit writing samples drawn from those for whom I author-edit. They see how problems are often attributable to interference from the first language:  Finnish, Swedish, or overseas students’ languages, often Chinese. Working together, we distribute content properly among IMRAD sections, shrink wordy passages, reduce passive voice use, and strengthen the power of each line. Their resultant article-acceptance rates internationally have soared, surely because each writer, during and after the course, had practised playing journal editor/referee for others’ work. And because, post-course, they edit— sitting with me in pairs—their partner’s Day-1 scribbled attempt at an abstract or introduction. Then they and we edit some pages of their own much-revised post-course writing. A decade later (and I have taught here, in this manner, for 20 years), they prove that they remember and use all of these skills. Learn by doing—and undoing—might be my motto.           


Three-step interactive editing of research articles and grant proposals
Ed Hull, Professional English, The Netherlands
[email protected]

The interactive “three-step editing” approach is a spin-off of my courses in scientific writing. In these courses, my students (PhD researchers and postdocs) usually start off believing that English language problems hamper their success in getting published and acquiring grants. Although their English is not always perfect, I often find other, more serious problems in their writing. Irrelevant, extraneous and missing content as well as poor organization cause a lack of focus on the relevance and credibility of their research. This lack of focus often makes their texts incomprehensible, even if the language is technically correct. Unfortunately, this in turn leads to comments from journal editors and reviewers such as, "have it edited by a native speaking editor." But such comments are misleading—the language is not the biggest problem, and language editing alone cannot solve this problem.

Interactive three-step editing helps researchers to sharply focus on the relevance and credibility of their work and make it comprehensible even to non-specialists. The approach consists of 3 rounds of editing. (1) An experienced science-content editor reviews the article or grant proposal for logical linking, consistency of terminology, and focus on the credibility and relevance of the research. (2) The author then clarifies the issues, revises the article and returns it. (3) A language editor polishes the writing as a final step. Throughout the process all 3 people interact with each other via e-mail and/or telephone.

My colleagues and I in the Netherlands have formed a group of editors specialized in scientific content and organization (step 1), and specialized language editors (step 3). The step-1 editors require initial training. For this purpose, I hold a “boot camp”—they sit in on one of my courses and receive tips and guidance on their editing. Although I cannot give any comparative data, the approach seems to be quite successful, and the vast majority of our clients have had only praise for the three-step approach. And, it is surprisingly cost effective.


Interacting with authors: principles from research into successful analytical writing processes
Mary Ellen Kerans, Spain
[email protected]

Courses, manuals and guidelines on scientific writing often emphasize descriptions of a good finished article: the essential content, the order of information, and the presentation of tables and figures, including warnings about avoiding common mishaps. Advice seems to assume that a scientist fully knows what can be said about the data and writing is a matter of arranging the information properly, stating foregone conclusions and comparing them to others’ conclusions. Experience with editing and peer review would suggest more is surely involved. 

What can be missing from instruction is a sense of the complex processes that successful writers engage in while writing, during which new insights emerge. Although we may assume that writing skill is being acquired through “situated learning” under admirable mentors and in the company of engaged peers, in today’s world of digital writing and virtual meetings, and in places where mentors are unengaged or uninformed, successful writing processes are not necessarily passed on. As a result, beginning or struggling authors can be surprised by the time and effort they must put into a manuscript at all stages as they try for acceptance.

In settings where authors work with a personal editor (such as in many non-anglophone contexts), there is some opportunity to partially make up for uneven mentoring. I will describe a few research-based principles of successful analytical writing that in-house or freelance editors can share with authors over the manuscripts they bring to us. Initially derived from the writing process literature that emerged mainly in the 1980s, these principles have been used in classrooms but are particularly appropriate for helping individuals while engaged with such problems as writing convincing introduction and discussion sections of original research articles, writing non-IMRaD articles with less clear-cut structures, gaining and managing useful feedback from co-authors, and negotiating revisions with others.


How editors can mentor researchers in developing countries, and why…

Ravi Murugesan, AuthorAID, UK
[email protected]

Researchers in developing countries have increasing access to scientific publications through free or discounted access to subscription journals and through open-access journals. Perhaps not as well known are initiatives that help such researchers become better communicators of their own research. An example is the AuthorAID project run by the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP), a charity in the UK. AuthorAID’s components comprise training on research writing through workshops and e-learning, online resources, a knowledge community with an active discussion list, small grants, and – the focus of this talk – an online mentoring scheme.

Over 3500 researchers from 150 countries have registered themselves on the AuthorAID website (as of September 2011). But only a sixth of them have indicated that they can provide mentoring support. The majority are mentees, looking for support to communicate their research. Mentees are typically early-career researchers in developing countries. Mentors are experienced researchers or science editors. In this talk, I’ll explain how science editors – irrespective of their function or specialisation – can become valued mentors in AuthorAID.


Publishing strategy: a specific program for PhD  students at the INRA in France
Patricia Volland-Nail and MISTeR 3’s lecturers*
* Marie-Laure Abinne, Pascal Aventurier, Véronique Batifol-Garandel, Marie-Hélène Bridet, Caroline Falize, Dominique Fournier
Email: [email protected]

In France scientific communication and writing is not taught at universities. As a result PhD students and even PhD scientists face serious issues when seeking scientific information and publishing results. To overcome this, the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) established an educational programme on scientific and technical research information and communication: Maitriser l’Information Scientifique et Technique en Recherche (MISTeR).  It comprises four courses: 1) How to search and optimize scientific information, 2) How to manage scientific information with a reference management software, 3) How to establish a strategy for publishing scientific results, and 4) How to plan writing and building a research article.

This presentation will highlight Course 3 which addresses the standard questions to be asked when preparing a scientific article.

·         Why publish?

·         What can be published and what cannot?

·         When to publish? “Not too soon but not too late…”.

·         How to publish?  What type of scientific document is most suitable?

·         Where to publish?  How to choose the correct journal.

·         With whom to publish? The question of “authorship” is an important ethical issue that is discussed in detail in this course.


Cows do not eat publications
Eric Lichtfouse, Marjolaine Hamelin, Virginie Lelièvre, Pascal Aventurier, INRA, France
[email protected], [email protected], [email protected]

Cows do not eat publications: this was the main motto at the French Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) in 1993, highlighting clearly that at that time the main objective was not to produce academic papers but to provide ‘real’ help to farmers. Publishing in peer-reviewed international journals was not a major issue until 2009, when the Institute suddenly started giving subsidies to departments that stimulate publication in high-ranked journals.  Many scientists suddenly faced issues such as writing in English and understanding the cultural features of northern journals. Therefore we created a scientific writing workforce at the department of Environment and Agronomy to provide help for laboratories and scientists. Our major achievements so far are: 1) a fast online reading service to check titles and abstract before submission, 2) scientific writing lectures in laboratories, including speed-writing sessions, 3) a Diigo online website to share scientific writing information ( and 4) a guide on authorship.