METM18 presentation 

Increasing the impact of writing support in the scientific research process 

Iain Patten, Valencia, Spain 

Although scientists typically seek help with their writing very late in the process, many of the problems they face arise much earlier. Writing plays a critical role in advancing research, and indeed the careers of researchers. Yet most scientists treat the process of writing as though it were entirely separate from that of doing research. It is common, for instance, to hear scientists refer to writing up the results of a project, reflecting a view in which we first finish the project and then think about how to communicate it to others. Yet these same researchers often report that they only recognise many important aspects of their work when they come to write about it. In this presentation, I will explore how writing professionals can help researchers get the most from their work by understanding more about the reciprocal relationship between the process of research and the process of writing about research. I will describe my experience of working with scientific research groups to illustrate how integrating writing more deeply into the research process can have beneficial effects not only on publication output but also on the research itself. In particular, I will describe how researchers can use writing to explore their research direction and build stories as their work develops. I will further discuss how the tendency to emphasise textual writing skills can cause problems for many researchers. Thus, by understanding more about how scientists relate to the process of writing about research, writing support professionals such as authors’ editors may be able to offer additional value in their work.

About the presenter

Dr. Iain Patten is an independent writing consultant working primarily with researchers in the natural sciences. He originally trained as a biomedical scientist and undertook research in neuroscience and embryology in the UK, USA, and Spain before shifting his attention to research communication. His work focuses primarily on helping authors to understand their own writing process and engage more effectively with it. The goal of this approach is to produce independent writers who are able to generate well-structured, clearly written articles as part of their normal professional activity. In parallel, he provides training and consultancy for group leaders and institute directors designed to help them develop a strategic approach to managing writing and publication and to work effectively with their groups to implement that vision.