Academic researchers now need to publish at the highest level of impact, which puts non-native speakers of English at a major disadvantage. For an ambitious academic department, employing an in-house editor can help level the playing field. We will discuss the skills and attitudes needed for working on specialized tasks for different stakeholders, and present concrete and anecdotal evidence of our added value.
Our daily work for researchers, diagnostic laboratories and clinicians includes editing, translation, copywriting, teaching and website maintenance. Being available to comment at each step of the research process – from idea to proposal, from presentation to publication – makes us long-term participants in the training of PhD students and post-doctoral researchers, and in the department’s research success. We must also be available for ad hoc discussions and, because we interact with people across the university hospital, our work includes the furthering of cross-communication.
For our specific editorial services, we need to keep up with the formatting, style guidelines, and content required by leading journals and funding bodies. We not only have to ensure that the English in a text is correct and comprehensible to a global audience, but also that the content is fit for purpose and of sufficiently high standard to give it the best chance of being published or funded.
As in-house editors, we must be interested in the department’s work and scientifically literate. And, as any editors, we need to be calm, friendly and service-minded, flexible in our working hours, and able to cope with the stress of impossible demands and tight deadlines.
Kate McIntyre and Jackie Senior work as editors/webmasters for the Dept. of Genetics, University of Groningen/University Medical Centre Groningen, the Netherlands.
Kate McIntyre did post-doctoral research in geochemistry at U.C. Santa Barbara and at CALTECH. After moving to the Netherlands, she started freelance editing in 2010 and has led workshops on academic writing for graduate students. She has also published one children’s book in Dutch, De knikkelares.
Although Jackie Senior now works mostly on biomedical texts, she started as a geologist working for Shell. After a varied career, she joined the genetics group in 1995. She has been editing/translating for more than 40 years. She was a founder member of SENSE (Society of English-Native-Speaking Editors, NL) in 1990, served twice on its executive committee and is an honorary member.