Scientific copyeditor at your service

9 10 2014

Wow, I haven’t posted on this site for a LONG time. Sorry about that, I’ve been very busy as usual! But I have something for you today that I wanted to share…

In the course of my day job at the University of Warwick, I compile a weekly ‘Arabidopsis Research Round-up‘ of recently published, UK-based scientific articles in the area of Arabidopsis research. (FYI: Arabidopsis thaliana is a small weed used as a model organism for plant research – you can find out more about it here: http://youtu.be/hWAb30Ggl5o.) This involves reading lots of abstracts of new papers and condensing them into easy-to-read summaries, which we then publish on the GARNet website, blog, and on the Arabidopsis Information Portal.

Today’s Round-up will include this article, led by a Chinese team but also involving a British scientist from Rothamsted Research: Yang L, Zhao X, Paul M, Zhu H, Zu Y and Tang Z (2014). Exogenous Trehalose Largely Alleviates Ionic Unbalance, ROS Burst and PCD Occurrence Induced by High Salinity in Arabidopsis SeedlingsFrontiers in Plant Science, DOI: 10.3389/fpls.2014.00570.

As someone without extensive lab experience, it’s not unusual for me to sometimes get a little stuck when reading complex scientific papers. But, with a a little effort, and the help of Google, I’m pretty good at unpicking the terminology to work out what the paper is really about so I can translate it into plain English. This paper, however, took a little more unpicking than most; in fact, the abstract didn’t even make sense in places!

Here is my copyedited version of the manuscript’s abstract:

Although Ttrehalose (Tre) has been reported to play a critical role in plant response to salinity, and the involved mechanisms remain involved have yet to be investigated in detail. Here, the putative roles of Tre in the regulation of ionic balance, cellular redox state, and cell death were studied in Arabidopsis under high salt conditions. Our results found that the salt-induced restrictions on both vegetative and reproductive growth in salt-stressed plants were largely alleviated by an exogenous supply with of Tre. The mMicroprobe analysis of ionic dynamics in the leaf and stem of inflorescence stem highlighted the Tre‘s ability to retain the K and K/Na ratio in plant tissues to improve salt tolerance. The In flow cytometric (FCM) assays of cellular levels of ROS (reactive oxygen species (ROS) and PCD (programmed cell death (PCD), displayed that Tre was able to antagonized salt-induced damages in both the redox state and in cell death. and sSucrose did not play the same role with Trewas not shown to have the same effect. By cComparing ionic distribution in between the leaf and IS (inflorescence stem (IS), we found that Tre largely improved was able to restrict Na transportation to IS from leaves since that the ratio of Na accumulation in leaves relative to IS. was largely improved due to This shows that Tre was able to restrict Na transportation to IS from leaves. The marked decrease of Na ions, and the improved sucrose levels in IS, might account for the promoted floral growth observed when Tre was added to the saline solution. At the same time, endogenous soluble sugars and the activity of antioxidant enzymes activities in the salt-stressed plants were also elevated by Tre to counteract high salt stress. We concluded that Tre could improve Arabidopsis salt resistance with respect to biomass accumulation and floral transition in the by means of regulating plant redox state, cell death, and ionic distribution.

I contacted Frontiers in Plant Science about this via Twitter, and they assured me that this is a provisionally accepted manuscript that has not yet gone through the copyediting and typesetting process. Still, if I’d been reviewing this manuscript, I think I’d have pushed for a pre-acceptance copyedit – especially as one one of the authors on this paper is English himself!

I would always recommend authors to have a native English speaker read through and comment on a manuscript before submission – even if the author him or herself is also a native English speaker. Of course, I would love that editor to be me (contact me for copyediting and proofreading at a very competitive price!) but it could just be a friend or colleague who has not worked on the document.

Minor mistakes such as inconsistent formatting or mixed use of British and American English can be ironed out by the publisher’s in house team (if they offer this service – not all do!), but, in my opinion, it just doesn’t make sense to submit something that doesn’t make complete sense or which is full of errors. As an author seeking to have your work published, you’ll want to make the review process as easy as possible for the editors and reviewers. Not only will this speed up the process, but it could make the difference between getting published in a low impact journal when you were aiming for a higher impact one, or even getting published at all.

Perhaps I am being pedantic and impatient with the publication process – what do you think?

 

 





UKPSF Launches New Report on Status of Plant Science

28 01 2014

Screen shot 2014-01-28 at 13.05.07Today sees the launch of a new report by the UK Plant Sciences Federation (UKPSF)– one that I helped to research, structure, copyedit and proofread!

The report, entitled, “UK Plant Science: Current Status and Future Challenges” outlines the results of a survey of more than 300 members of the UK plant science community. In this survey, respondents identified what they perceive to be the greatest challenges for UK plant science research, namely:

  • Food security
  • Production of healthier foods
  • Environmental stability
  • Development of biofuels and bioproducts

Currently, the UK is 2nd in the world in terms of plant science publication impact, and is renowned for its plant science excellence, so we are very well placed to help make valuable contributions towards solving some of the world’s most pre

ssing problems. However, the community fears that this world-class position could be threatened unless urgent action is taken.

Read the report to find out what recommendations the UKPSF makes…(opens PDF)…UK Plant Science: Current Status and Future Challenges.

Screen shot 2014-01-28 at 13.04.24

There’s me! In the acknowledgements!





Does Spelling and Grammar Matter?

8 06 2013
From fangsandclause.wordpress.com

Does spelling and grammar matter? I think so!

It truly baffles me that so many employers on freelance bidding sites such as Freelancer, Elance and People Per Hour are willing to accept substandard writing for their website projects. The number of people paying a paltry few pounds or dollars for article rewriting, article spinning, or even original articles for, at most, $4 per 500 words, is – to me – unbelievable.

Of course, I know what’s going on here: pay-per-click advertising on the cheap. Done well, niche websites and article bases provide a very useful service to people who are genuinely looking for quality information on a certain topic – in fact, I’m writing some health articles for an article base-style website right now. Often however, niche sites are dumped full of cheap, badly written, keyword-rich content that serves little or no use to the poor visitor who has been duped into accessing the site because of a high pagerank. If even a very few of these visitors click an ad from time to time, it can make the site profitable, which is all the owners care about.

Sigh.

What is even more incomprehensible to me is the number of people wanting copy-editors or proofreaders, who choose providers who clearly, from their bids, have a substandard level of English. But again, cost wins over quality: experienced and qualified proofreaders are relatively expensive – the UK’s Society for Editors and Proofreaders recommends a minimum hourly rate of £21.40, whereas non-native English speakers, and even unqualified, inexperienced native English speakers, offer their ‘services’ for well, well below the going rate.

I just don’t get it. If you want someone to write a high quality, error-free article, or to check and correct work for spelling, grammar and punctuation, then WHY ON EARTH would you hire someone who was clearly incapable just because they were cheap!? It’s like asking a chef to build you a house, or going to see a hairdresser for a health check – sure, they could have a go, but would they do a good job? Not likely. If you open a project asking for a copywriter, for example, and you get a very cheap bid from someone who says, “I am experiencing about WRITING task. In your Pm, I give some document which I worked in the past…. If, you think I am the right person for this please assign me now. You won’t be looser” (an example of a GENUINE bid, by the way!), for god’s sake don’t hire them! No offence is intended to anyone from any nationality, it’s simply a case of choosing the right person for the job and getting what you pay for.

Just because someone has a British, American or Canadian (etc.) flag next to their Freelancer profile, it doesn’t automatically mean that they have the skills to do a good job – and the tell-tale sign of inexperience or poor quality is often, though not always, the low price that they are willing to be paid. Equally, if someone is from a non-native English speaking country, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t a good editor, but for goodness sake employers, you need to do a background check! (As an aside, just because someone has a flag of any nationality on their Freelancer profile doesn’t necessarily mean that they are actually from that country, but that’s a blog post for another time…)

So, before I started tearing my hair out and wondering why on earth I bother even being a member of these freelance bidding sites (the jury’s still out…), I was pleased to find encouragement and reassurance from two sources this week. Firstly, I remembered that  I’d posted a poll on survey website Panelbase in which I posed the question, “Does spelling and grammar matter in this day and age?”. Logging into my account for the first time in ages, I was pleased to note that almost 500 people have now responded to this poll, with a staggering 80% agreeing that yes, spelling and grammar always matters. In addition, a further 17% felt that spelling and grammar matters, but it depends on the situation. Phew, it’s not just me then!

The second thing that encouraged me was this YouTube video from Google, which I found whilst browsing the Editorial Training blog. Although Google do not currently include spelling and grammar as a parameter for calculating pagerank, there is a clear trend for lower quality writing on lower ranked pages. In other words, poorly written websites, regardless of keywords or content, don’t do as well in Google rankings as good quality, well written websites, so if you want your website to succeed, you would do well to invest in a good quality writer and/or editor to improve your prospects.

If you are interested in hiring an experienced, high quality writer and/or an exceptional copy-editor and proofreader, click this way…





Academic writing: what I will and won’t do

11 05 2013

Plagiarism is not just copying someone else's work - it also includes getting someone to do the work for you!I have written about this before, but you know what’s been annoying me recently? Dodgy ‘academic writing’ projects.

Just this week I was contacted by someone who asked me to help them with a college assignment. Before accepting the project, I messaged the buyer to ask for more details about the project, since they were pretty vague about they really wanted; I was also suspicious that they probably wanted me to write the thing from scratch. Funnily enough, the buyer didn’t message me back and the project offer expired, so it seems my suspicions may have had some grounding.

Just to make things absolutely clear, here’s what I WILL do for students and academics, and here’s what I WON’T do.

What I will do

  • Copy-edit draft versions of a paper that the author has written themselves
  • Proofread final drafts of a paper that the author has written themselves
  • Take an author’s notes or early draft and advise on paper structure, formatting, referencing (etc.) in accordance with the house style of the submission journal or academic institution
  • Write an abstract based on the author’s manuscript
  • Co-write a manuscript article for a peer-reviewed journal submission provided I am either named as a co-author or credited in the acknowledgements.

What I won’t do

  • Write an assignment for a student from scratch (this includes anything that is going to be graded or count towards a qualification)
  • Rewrite an article or manuscript that someone else has written

Why won’t I write or rewrite academic assignments?

The answer is very simple: it is CHEATING.

Contrary to seemingly popular belief, plagiarism is NOT JUST about copying paragraphs from books, or recycling the work of a friend taking the same course in another class – there’s more to it than that. I checked the plagiarism policy of my alma mater, the University of Warwick, and here is what it said:

…‘cheating’ means an attempt to benefit oneself or another, by deceit or fraud. This shall include reproducing one’s own work or the work of another person or persons without proper acknowledgement.

If an assignment or article passes Copyscape or similar ‘anti-plagiarism’ software tests, it doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been plagiarised – it just means that it probably hasn’t been copied verbatim from published work. However, if YOU did not produce the work yourself, you cannot say it is yours. It’s like someone pretending to be you in an exam, or stealing someone’s bank details so you can pilfer their account. Let’s get this clear – asking someone else to write something that you intend to submit as your own, original work IS plagiarism. And plagiarism is WRONG.

What REALLY worries me, is the number of people who think that this practice is OK.

Students

I have lost count of the number of times that a student has asked me to write an essay for them. It truly baffles me. I worked bloody hard for my degree. I EARNED the right to be called a Bachelor of Science by doing all my own research, writing all my own essays, studying REALLY hard, and sitting my own exams. Cheating never even crossed my mind because, actually – you know what? – I wanted to be GOOD at my subject! I wanted to KNOW about biology, to UNDERSTAND science, to PROGRESS my future career with my intelligence and skill! Why would you even BOTHER going to university or college if you don’t want/can’t be bothered/don’t have time to do the work?! I do understand that some people have difficulties structuring an essay, or with spelling and grammar and that is why I do offer a second pair of eyes to check work for errors. Editors serve a genuine purpose; so-called academic writers merely fuel dishonesty.

Academics

I had a quick flick through the scores of profiles of providers on Freelancer.com who claim to be ‘professional’ academic writers and boast about how they can improve student grades with their ‘well-researched, plagiarism-free content’. First off, that ‘professional’ tag really makes me feel sick. Professional? It’s anything but! Many of these people also claim to have bachelor degrees, Masters’ or PhDs. They could be lying, of course (and I suspect many are), but – vis a vis my comment above – I just don’t understand why anyone who has studied for and passed a qualification of any sort would want to be accomplice to a student cheat. It’s not even well paid (see below)! Unless of course the only way these so-called academics got their degree was through cheating themselves…

Essay writing agencies

A quick Google search for essay writing companies came up with LOADS of companies offering this service. The sheer number seriously blew my mind – and, my god, they’re so cheap! From as little as $15 USD, students can receive a ‘standard quality’ assignment within a few days!

How do they get away with it?! Some proffer a disclaimer stating that the essays provided are not to be submitted as students’ own work, but to be used for ‘research purposes only’ or to ‘help students with essay structure’. Pah, come off it! EssayTyper.com, a website that automatically creates an essay on your chosen subject using Wikipedia says, “EssayTyper uses a patented combination of magic and wikipedia to help you write your essay – fast! That said, please don’t ever try to use this legitimately. The magic part is not real… and that’s plagiarism.” Still, I wonder how many kids have turned in homework using this ‘handy’ tool?!

Cheating dialogueSome companies openly convince students that it is not cheating to submit an essay that they have not written themselves. I posed as a student needing ‘help’ and logged into the Live Chat function at essayforme.com to ask if I could buy a biology essay.  “We would be glad to do it” said ‘James’. But isn’t it cheating? “No it is not. The paper is 100% custom written and never again used or sold”, I am reassured.

Elsewhere on the same site, a banner tells me, “Don’t waste your time! Order top paper [sic]!”, and “rest assured that you will get non-plagiarized paper [sic] written from scratch according to your instructions.” Essaysprofy.com says “our main aim to help students in getting good grades [sic].” (Incidentally, the grammatical errors in the companies’ own websites don’t inspire much confidence!)

In response to the FAQ “Is this plagiarism?”, Write-my-essay-for-me.com even asserts that “Plagiarism involves the theft of somebody else’s work. You hire us to write original work for you, and that is exactly what we do. There is nothing plagiaristic about our service.” What?! Yes, plagiarism involves theft of someone else’s work, but that’s not all! Even using someone else’s work WITH their consent, and passing it off as your own IS plagiarism and WILL get you in trouble if you are caught!

Are you a student who has used, or considered using an essay writing service? Why did you do it? What results did you get? Did you feel bad about it?

Are you a writer for an essay writing company? How do you justify your role?

Do you work for a university or college and help to tackle plagiarism issues? What are your thoughts on essay writing services?

I’d love to receive comments on this matter – am I the only one who understands the real definition of plagiarism?








%d bloggers like this: