METM14 presentation

Become a mentor and pass on your editing skills and experience (before you retire)!


Jackie Senior, Groningen, the Netherlands

Experienced editors and those nearing retirement should be thinking of how they can pass on their skills to younger colleagues. They may also need to train someone to take over work in a specific field or to work for clients with special requirements.

As an in-house editor for a large, international research group in the University Medical Centre Groningen (NL), my “clients” (principal investigators, post-docs and PhD students) appreciate how much an editor can help with publications and in training students in writing skills. So after I turned 63, funding was found for a trainee editor position (8 hours/week) in the department, with a view to taking over when I retire.

A year ago, we found a candidate who met our main requirements. Her mother tongue is English, she has an affinity with the academic world, editing and writing experience and, most importantly, a willingness to learn about a completely new field. This involves mastering the subject matter, its specific terminology and conventions.

We have adopted a strategy of the trainee tackling one research paper, poster or website text a week, which I then review. She attends weekly presentations on the department’s projects. Regular feedback is proving an essential part of her learning process, but is also helping me to re-assess some tasks that I have done on auto-pilot for years. I have needed to articulate the clients’ (often unspoken) expectations and the department’s work ethos. We have learned to accommodate our different professional and language backgrounds (US vs UK) and individual styles. Editing remains a subjective process.

I will also comment on the mentor programme that SENSE has set up to encourage newcomers and experienced editors to get together.

This presentation will alert MET members to the length of time it takes to train someone in a new field, to what the trainee needs to know, to ways of tackling such a traineeship, and to how working as a mentor raises self-awareness of your own editing approach.

Jackie Senior works as an editor and webmaster for an ambitious research department in the Netherlands (Dept of Genetics, University of Groningen/UMCG, the Netherlands). Nowadays she works mostly on biomedical texts but she started as a geologist (in the oil and gas boom), worked in investment banking (during the internet bubble), and moved to the genetics group in the 1990s (human genome era). She has been editing and translating for 40 years but, with the Dutch retirement age becoming a moveable feast, is exploring options for later. She was a founder member of SENSE (Society of English-Native-Speaking Editors, NL) and served twice on its executive committee.
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