KOK Edit: Your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM)
KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) Katharine O'Moore Klopf

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

What Non-Native English Speakers Need When Submitting Manuscripts to Western Science Journals

Editing for authors who are non-native English speakers
This article from The Scientist is right that language problems aren't always what get international authors' research manuscripts rejected by English-language science journals. Most often, there is a problem with the research described in the manuscript. But still, even though many journals will say publicly that poor English won't cause rejection, authors and editors alike know that's not always the truth.

Sometimes the problem is cultural differences between authors and the staff of target journals. If authors are unfamiliar with how a journal's publishing culture operates, they can lose chances to get published. If, on top of that, they are not native speakers of English, there can be rejection-inducing misunderstandings in communication. And finally, some journals' peer reviewers truly will not even review a manuscript if they can tell that English is not the authors' native language.

When authors who are non-native speakers of English look for editors outside their target journals to help them, they may encounter some editors

  • Who aren't highly skilled and thus who introduce errors into manuscripts

  • Who are in financial relationships with the journals and thus don't have the authors' best interests at heart

  • Who aren't willing or able to help authors understand the journals' culture

  • Who fit all of the preceding descriptions.

It can take time, but authors can eventually find editors like me who are quite skilled, who have no financial connections with the authors' target journals, and who are happy to "translate" the culture of authors' target journals. And once they find such editors, they can build long-term work relationships that benefit both parties.

Authors who want more information on working with good editors should read the book Editing Research: The Author Editing Approach to Providing Effective Support to Writers of Research Papers, by Valerie Matarese. [Disclosure: I am one of the expert authors quoted in the book.]

Monday, March 16, 2020

Purging Plagiarism: Why Authors Plagiarise and How to Fix It

One of the most difficult situations for an editor to deal with is finding plagiarism in a client’s work. The initial reaction is often shock or disbelief, which is the result of the editor’s knowledge and understanding of the legal and ethical issues surrounding plagiarism. This understanding is not always shared by our clients. Regardless of culture, or author awareness of the ethics of plagiarism, both native and non-native English speakers may struggle to identify plagiarism in their own work, and so it is good practice to never assume that plagiarism has been done maliciously or was intentional.

Shutterstock / Pixelvario /Sign in foreground of grassy field with two arrows pointing in opposite directions, one pointing towards creativity and the other towards imitation
With this in mind, Joely Taylor and I teamed up to co-author a presentation on plagiarism for the 9th Institute of Professional Editors Limited national editors conference in Melbourne, Australia, in May 2019. We have since expanded on the content in the talk and have written a paper to provide authors and editors with a more comprehensive guide on plagiarism.

In the paper we explain that there are numerous methods for finding plagiarism in text, including relying on the editor’s own ear in picking up sudden changes in language, finding hotlinks in text and using commercial plagiarism-checking software. We also describe the different categories of plagiarism, including self-plagiarism, patch-writing and copy-paste writing.

In an increasingly digitised world, with exponential growth in publications, in this case scientific publications, preventing plagiarism becomes a larger and more complex issue. In addition, English may be the international language of science, but increasingly non-native English speakers are contributing to science by writing journal papers. It is the role of the international research community to ensure that the privilege of native English speakers does not stand in the way of the continued unification and dissemination of good research by researchers across the globe.

Despite the reason for plagiarism, understanding the different categories of plagiarism and how it comes about will assist authors and editors in better managing plagiarism when it appears in text and in being able to confidently and knowledgeably understand plagiarism and how to avoid it in the future.

It is the role of the international research community to ensure that the privilege of native English speakers does not stand in the way of the continued unification and dissemination of good research by researchers across the globe.

Download the paper Purging plagiarism: Why authors plagiarise and how to fix it.

View this blog post and the paper on Dr Joely Taylor’s blog, Well Writ.

Dr Joely Taylor is a former research scientist. Specialising in academic, technical and scientific editing, Dr Taylor is an Accredited Editor with the Institute of Professional Editors Ltd in Australia, an Editor in the Life Sciences with the Board of Editors in the Life Sciences in the US, and an Advanced Professional Member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (the former Society for Editors and Proofreaders) in the UK.

Katharine O’Moore-Klopf, ELS, is a self-employed medical editor with board certification in the life sciences. Her editing has helped researchers in more than 20 nations get published in more than 50 different medical journals. She is a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association, the Council of Science Editors, the American Medical Writers Association, the Board of Editors in the Life Sciences, and ACES: the Society for Editing.

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