METM09 poster presentation

Ghosts in the Machine? The Uncertain Role of English Language Consultants in Research Institutions and the Importance of Professional Networks

Deborah Bowen and Susannah Goss – Berlin, Germany

As researchers come under increasing pressure to publish in English, there is a growing need for academic editing and translating services. We report from our in-house experience at DIW Berlin, an economic research institute, and at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin (MPIB), a multidisciplinary research institute dedicated to the study of human development and education. As in-house English language consultants for the DIW’s Department of the Socio-Economic Panel Study and the MPIB’s Center for Educational Research, our responsibilities include translation, author’s editing, managing the outsourcing of translation/editing, terminological advice, editorial management of empirical journals, guidance through the peer review and publishing process, and delivering academic writing workshops within our departments. As neither institution has a cross-departmental policy on language issues or guidelines for working with translators/editors, needs for language support have traditionally been addressed on an ad hoc basis. This places us at a unique vantage point in our respective institutes to see what works and what doesn’t. In our poster presentation we discuss some of the issues that we see arising (1) for our employers/institutes due to their “ad hoc” approach and (2) for us as lone wolves in our professional contexts. Finally, we (1) present guidelines we are drafting for institutes like ours on linguistic issues and working with language professionals and (2) consider means of coping with professional isolation, taking as an example the Berlin translators’ network that we co-founded almost ten years ago, Inter Alia, and proposing ideas for future international networks.


Deborah Bowen (Dip Trans IoL) is Translator and Editor for the Socio-Economic Panel Study at DIW Berlin, Editorial Manager for the international journal Applied Economics Quarterly, and a freelance translator/editor.

Susannah Goss (MA, Dip Trans IoL) is International Projects and Publications Coordinator at the Center for Educational Research of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin, and a freelance translator/editor and provider of academic writing courses.