METM09 panel discussion

Defining roles in writing support services: a look at the full spectrum

Iain Patten, organizer – Spain and UK (

While we may choose to describe ourselves as editors, translators, or other language service providers, what we actually offer our clients is often not so easily defined. Translators may find themselves educating, editors writing, or writers editing, and writing support may be better considered as a spectrum in which the boundaries between the different activities are inevitably fuzzy. In order to best serve the needs of individual clients, however, the limits of what we can and cannot offer need to be clear in our minds. By reflecting on the specific nature and requirements of the services we provide, we are better equipped to learn from colleagues working in allied disciplines and also to avoid wandering into areas that may be beyond our competence or that may interfere with the client's wishes. In this panel, we will present a range of services from teaching authors how to write academic articles to writing them on their behalf, exploring how different activities may form a fluid continuum. In this way, we will provide an opportunity to explore the limits of each type of service falling under the umbrella of education, translation, editing, and writing, before considering some of the challenges that may arise when consciously offering hybrid services.

Each speaker will present an element in the spectrum of writing support and set the stage for an open discussion with audience participation.


Iain K. Patten (organizer) is an independent medical writing and translation consultant. He began his career in biomedical research before spending a number of years in Spain working as an editor and translator of biomedical science. After a period working in a large international medical communications agency, he now shares time between Valencia and London working with clients to facilitate the effective communication of science and medicine to English-speaking audiences.

Sally Burgess is a lecturer in English language and linguistics at the University of La Laguna, Tenerife, Spain. Her research interests involve comparing academic discourse practices across languages and disciplines as well as the writing, editing, and translation resources available to scholars who use English as an additional language and who seek to publish their work internationally.

Susan M. DiGiacomo, Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Tarragona, Catalonia, and University of Massachusetts at Amherst, USA, has some 20 years' experience as a translator of anthropology, and more recently developed an in-house biomedical translation service for researchers at a Barcelona hospital. Now a faculty member in the URV Department of Anthropology, she offers a departmental publication support service that includes both editorial assistance and translation.

Joy Burrough-Boenisch, Unclogged English, the Netherlands, has over 30 years' experience of working as an author's editor for Dutch scientists and academics in the field of agricultural and environmental science. She has researched and published widely on editing and Dutch English, including in refereed international applied linguistics journals.

Valerie Matarese, UpTo infotechnologies, Vidor (TV), Italy, is an independent biomedical editor and information professional. Since 1997, she has served publishers and researchers by offering author's editing, journal copy editing, medical writing and the hybrid service -œteam research writing-. She launched her independent activity upon leaving a career in biomedical research. She is an advocate of good scientific writing and adherence to internationally accepted standards for quality reporting in the biomedical sciences.