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: 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?



Warwickshire Life 5: Breeding a British Baked Bean

8 02 2014

This week’s Warwickshire Life post was a difficult one for me to write! The subject was baked beans – which have to be my all-time most hated food! I hate them so much I’m even avoiding putting a baked bean photo on this blog post because even the sight of them makes me feel queasy!

Nevertheless, the science is interesting, and that’s the main thing!

Read: Breeding a British Baked Bean.

You can also view this Youtube video from the University of Warwick that explains more about the research project:

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!

Warwickshire Life 4: Love your Greens

24 01 2014
© Brian Robert Marshall. Source: Wikimedia Commons. Reproduced under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license.

Oil seed rape. © Brian Robert Marshall. Source: Wikimedia Commons. Reproduced under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license.

My fourth contribution to Warwickshire Life’s online magazine is a report on the Brassica Growers’ Association conference that I attended earlier this week on behalf of the UK Brassica Research Community.

Read the full article and learn more about the Brassica industry here: Love your Greens.

To find out more information about the Brassica Growers’ Association, click here:

Warwickshire Life 2: Food waste – and how Science is Helping

6 12 2013
Tristram Stuart © Isabelle Adam, via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Tristram Stuart © Isabelle Adam, via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Last week I attended a free public lecture at Warwick University, by food waste campaigner Tristram Stuart. You might have seen him on the TV recently as he took his ‘Pig Idea‘ campaign to London and fed hundreds of people using pork from pigs fed on food waste.

Tristram’s speech was the inspiration behind the second of my blog posts for Warwickshire Life’s online community, in which I also briefly discuss some of the ways in which science is helping to reduce food waste.

Check it out here: and please feel free to comment!

Arabidopsis Research Round-Ups

29 10 2013

Here’s a catch-up on the Arabidopsis Research Round-ups I’ve written since my last update.

Journalism Week 1: Comment article

21 10 2013

A perk of my new job at a university is that I am given a certain number of vouchers that I may redeem against a variety of educational or sporting courses. I have decided to take an Open Studies Certificate in Journalism, a 25-week course that I hope will help me in both my full time job and in my freelance endeavours. The first term is on the subject of media writing, and we are given an assignment each week. My first week’s homework was to write a comment article on a topic that I feel strongly about, in 250 words – so here it is! This hasn’t been marked by my tutor yet, but I appreciate any feedback or comments!

Facebook chain letterOctober is Breast Cancer Awareness Month – a fact that this Facebook chain letter (left) brought to my attention.

Breast cancer affects approximately 1 in 8 women in the UK, as well as a few hundred men each year, and countless families are devastated by this disease. Although advances in diagnostics and treatments have reduced the number of people dying from breast cancer, charities such as Breast Cancer Care, Breakthrough and Cancer Research UK still play a vital role in funding research into the disease and supporting its victims.

Which is why this chain letter annoyed me.

Given the high prevalence of breast cancer, it is not breast cancer per se for which we need to raise awareness, but rather raising the profile of charities and encouraging fundraising, the importance of checking our breasts for lumps, and of visiting the doctor with concerns. Simply making someone aware of a disease that we already know about isn’t enough – we need to encourage positive actions. Posting a Facebook status that does little except to confuse the few people who aren’t in on the joke isn’t, in my view, a great way to make a stand.

This October, might I suggest that you donate to a cancer charity, take part in a fundraising event, or even encourage your friends to check their breasts? This will raise far more awareness and do far more good than posting a Facebook status about where you leave your handbag.

Edit: Thanks to Matt Kaiser (@marvel_matt) who spotted that I’d misquoted a statistic. In a previous version of this post, I erroneously stated that breast cancer affects around 1% of men, when in fact this should have said that less than 1% of all breast cancers are in men. I have updated the article above. 

Update October 28: Had good feedback from my tutor, who said I was “developing a great journalistic style”. He advised me to break my paragraphs down a bit more to make the article easier to read, and also to try and avoid repetition of key phrases; in this case ‘breast cancer’.

%d bloggers like this: