METM19 panel discussion

From the inside out: thinking through the specificity of working with social science texts

A Susan M. DiGiacomo memorial session

Sally Burgess, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain; Fiona Kelso, Barcelona, Spain; Alan Lounds, Barcelona, Spain; Kate Sotejeff-Wilson, Jyväskylä, Finland; Theresa Truax-Gischler, Leiden, Netherlands

This year’s METM will take place at the University of Split’s School of Medicine and School of Humanities and Social Sciences: the perfect venue for discussing what makes editing and translating social science texts different from editing and translating other kinds of texts and how language professionals can better support social science research writing. This session will familiarize METM19 participants with the American Council of Learned Societies’ Guidelines for the Translation of Social Science Texts, which attempt to specify what is distinctive about social science texts, why translating them requires an approach to translation that differs from approaches used in translating scientific, technical or literary texts, who should do this work, and what widespread adoption of these guidelines might achieve.

The session opens in honour of Susan M. DiGiacomo with a critical summary of the Guidelines, which reveal both useful advice and some questionable assertions about the nature of social science texts. The summary will focus on four elements: the generalizability of social science theory; style and voice in social science writing; and the role of concepts in social science interpretations.

In a moderated roundtable, members of the MET-Humanities special interest group working across a spectrum of academic disciplines will share their knowledge and experiences in helping authors convey and strengthen those elements identified by DiGiacomo as specific to social science texts. This cross-disciplinary panel of insiders and outsiders to the social sciences will work together to explicate similarities and differences in form and practice. What difficulties do language professionals encounter in editing and translating an author’s voice, style, concepts and theoretical approach? What elements are specific to social science texts? Do they overlap with writing in the humanities or natural sciences? What practical skills are required for handling social science texts? Do approaches vary across language cultures or between editing/translating?

About the presenters

Sally Burgess is a lecturer in English at the University of La Laguna. Her main research interests are in cross-cultural rhetoric, the contribution of language professionals to the preparation of research publications, the teaching of writing in the university context and, most recently, the effects of research evaluation policies on Spanish scholars’ publishing practices. With Margaret Cargill she organized the first PRISEAL conference in early 2007. Apart from her interest in academic discourse studies and English for research publication purposes, Sally has also published several literary translations in collaboration with the University of La Laguna’s Literary Translation Workshop.

Fiona Kelso is a full-time translator at the Servei de Llengües of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, where she is also an adjunct lecturer at the Faculty of Translation and Interpreting, specializing in cultural issues and inverse translation. She graduated in geography from the University of Leeds and obtained her master’s degree in translation studies from the UAB. She has been an active member of MET for several years and is currently a member of the REICIT research group in Intercultural Studies and Translation.

Alan Lounds is a semi-retired editor, translator and academic writing teacher. He worked for 28 years at the Language Advisory Unit of the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, where he managed the translation of institutional and academic documents and the creation of language support resources. He is a founder member and former chair of Mediterranean Editors and Translators.

Kate Sotejeff-Wilson enjoys “midwifing” people’s texts into being. She has been translating and editing non-native English academic writing for nearly two decades, starting during her history PhD research in London, Warsaw and Berlin. Born in Wales, she is now also a Finn and an active NEaT member. She is especially interested in the crossover between translation and editing, which arose in one of her editing projects this year: Polish verbal aspect and its Finnish statistical correlates in the light of a parallel corpus, by Edyta Jurkiewicz-Rohrbacher.

Theresa Truax-Gischler is a freelance substantive and developmental authors' editor in the qualitative social sciences and humanities and serves on the SENSE executive committee. She specializes in NNES language support in Turkic and European languages. She began editing in the mid-90s during graduate work in anthropology, history and language studies, and later worked in grant writing, management, reporting and review. Her favourite recent projects: developmental edits of monographs in history, anthropology and political science, and cross-disciplinary articles in philosophy and anthropology. An enthusiast of cross-cultural knowledge production, she lives in Leiden, Netherlands with her family and a five-metre-high library.

Susan M. DiGiacomo was a professor of anthropology at the Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Tarragona, Catalonia, and an adjunct professor of anthropology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, USA. She had 30 years of experience as a translator of anthropology from Catalan and Spanish to English and English to Catalan, and offered a departmental publication support service for her colleagues at URV that included critical review of manuscripts, author editing and translation. Susan passed away in June 2019.