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?

 

 





Constructive criticism for Freelancer.com

3 04 2012

No whinging or complaining here please, only constructive criticism and helpful suggestions

I’ve received many a comment on my blog posts, The Trouble with Freelancer Part 1 and Part 2, and it seems that a lot of people have a lot of say about the way that Freelancer.com is run. Fair dues – the reason I wrote that post in the first place was to have my own little rant about my experiences with the site.

Recently however, I’ve had a number of emails and comments from people who don;t just want a whinge and a moan – they want to help make the world of online freelancing a better place. From other, rival companies to Freelancer.com wanting to make their own sites better, to individuals wanting to set up their own sites, it seems that everyone loves the idea of being able to find work online, but the perfect business model has yet to be found.

So, I present this new blog post to you as a platform to post your constructive criticism of Freelancer.com (and other similar sites) and to make suggestions as to what you think could be done differently, done better, or even to applaud the things that you like about Freelancer. I’m hoping that one of our more technogically and entrepreneurially-minded friends will take these ideas on board and help to develop the online freelancing marketplace for the greater good.

I must absolutely stress that the comment space on this post is NOT for complaints about Freelancer – to do that, please comment on this post, or even better, take up your umbrage with the company concerned. I moderate all comments on this site, so please make sure that any comments here are only of the helpful kind.

Over to you…





I, Freelancer

27 03 2012
Image source: http://www.broadband-expert.co.uk/blog/broadband-news/internet-allows-people-to-work-in-their-pyjamas/7710678

Incidently, I rarely work in my pyjamas, and if she's not careful, she's gonna get backache...

I quite often receive emails from people asking me how I got into freelancing, so for my first blog post in almost 10 months (um, yeah…sorry about that but all will become clear!) I’ve decided to blog about my freelancing experience for all to read…

Freelancing for me started when I returned from a year of travelling the world in 2008. Though a qualified secondary school Biology teacher, I fancied trying my hand at something new and so packed my knapsack, Dick Whittington-styles, and set off for London to find those streets paved with gold. Unbeknownst to me, the dreaded ‘credit crunch’ had landed whilst I was busy sunning myself on a beach in Vietnam, so although I did eventually find an editorial job at a science publishing company, albeit a poorly paid one, I spent several months on Jobseeker’s allowance struggling to pay off the credit card debt from my gap year and the steep rent of my new London digs. Searching online for part time jobs to supplement my income, I stumbled across an advert for PeoplePerHour.com and I decided to try it…

I was fortunate in that I was awarded a really interesting project in my area of interest almost straight away, and once you start, get a little bit of feedback and develop your portfolio, it gets easier and easier to win new projects on sites like this. I didn’t make a fortune, but working around my day job, and a long-ish distance relationship, I made a few extra quid to help me make ends meet.

Eventually, I decided that I wanted to move away from London and set up home with my boyfriend, who’s from the Midlands. Fortunately, my employer allowed me to continue in my publishing job, but working from home on a freelance contract. This was a godsend. During my time in London, I had developed a real love of science communication, and there is no way that I would have been able to find another position in the same industry in the middle of rural Warwickshire. It also meant that I had a steady and semi-secure income, and working from home gave me that extra time and flexibility to seek out other freelance projects. I started blogging about my experiences, which led to more work, and eventually I built up a fairly large client base. Success!

Sadly, the publishing house eventually made redundancies and let me go. I was fully prepared to take the plunge and try to make it on my own, without that safety net, but actually life had a different plan for me…One of my other freelance clients, a medical communications agency, heard that I was being made redundant and offered me a permanent, full time job! I was made redundant on a Friday and started the new job the next Monday – I have been very lucky!

My new job is pretty hectic and doesn’t give me much time to freelance (or blog!) any more, plus it’s much better paid so I don’t have the money worries I used to have. Nevertheless, I still can’t quite give up freelancing completely; there’s something really exciting about being your own boss, working on projects that you enjoy and that feeling that you have been chosen to work on a project because you are really good at what you do.

Would I recommend freelancing as a career move? Yes, but not for everyone. I will blog again soon about the benefits and drawbacks of being self-employed and working from home, but in short, freelancing will only work for you as a lucrative venture if you are prepared to put in plenty of hard work.





FAQ: Why can’t I withdraw my full £ GBP balance from Freelancer.com?

11 03 2011

Until recently, Freelancer.com only operated in US dollars, but with the company’s acquisition of various smaller freelancing sites around the world, it’s now possible to do business in other currencies including British pounds, Australian dollars and euros. This is great news for users of the site who don’t use US dollars in their home country, as it reduces the effect of fluctuating exchange rates and minimises conversion fees when withdrawing to PayPal or Moneybookers.

I recently completed my first project in British pounds, but hit a stumbling block when I tried to withdraw the funds from my Freelancer account to PayPal. I had £45 in my account, but when I requested to withdraw £45, an error message flashed up on screen saying, “ERRORS OCCURED – Withdrawal amount cannot be more than overall balance”. Huh?

Although Freelancer takes a £1 fee for PayPal withdrawals, this is usually deducted after you have requested the balance, i.e. you request to withdraw £45 and you receive £44 in your PayPal account. If I entered an amount of £44, this was accepted, but after the £1 fee, this would leave me with an amount of £1 in my account.That’s my pound! I want it!

I queried this situation with Freelancer Support and for once I received a straight answer! Helpful Shane said, “It appears that there is a bug in our system caused by the rounding of fees.” To remedy this situation, Helpful Shane deposited 1p into my account, making my balance £45.01, which has now allowed me to withdraw the full £45 that I earned. Hurrah!

I’m not sure if this happens if you try to request a withdrawal in other currencies, or if the same thing happens if you use Moneybookers or another withdrawal method, but if you’ve experienced the same thing, please leave a comment here to help and advise others. If this happens to you, contact Freelancer Support (customer-support@freelancer.com) and they will be able to help you. An engineering team are allegedly working to fix this problem so hopefully it won’t be an issue for too much longer.





method5 software development

8 03 2011

method5 software developmentmethod5 is a Toronto-based software development company with a knack for creating web applications and iPhone apps. They came to me after posting an ad on Freelancer.com and were impressed with the experience I’ve had of copywriting in this field (see the copy I’ve written for similar web design and development firms Moorhead Marketing, Pixel Designer, Kaus Design Studio and Org50.com).

method5 wanted fresh copy for their clean, new site and to “get the message across” simply, without too much jargon, and in a cool, quirky style. I’ve mixed bold type and catchy headers with friendly-sounding, informative text that doesn’t take itself too seriously, yet still shows that method5 know what they’re talking about. Since I couldn’t get the phrase, “there’s method in our madness” out of my head while writing this site, I’ve thrown in a few Madness song titles too. I’m not sure if Canadians are that big into two-tone, but method5 seemed to like it!





FAQ: Public and private messages on Freelancer.com – what are they for?

9 02 2011

OK, so I’m not *loving* Freelancer.com right now, and I won’t be fully au fait with them until they have implemented the compulsory milestone payment feature they promised me in response to my last post so that freelancers don’t have to take a gamble every time they bid on and accept a project. But I am OK with them again, so it’s time for another FAQ session. This week, I’m talking about the public and private message boards on Freelancer.com, and what they are for. And what they definitely are NOT for.

First of all, the public message boards. Each project description page, say for instance, this one, has a link to a “project clarification board” – that’s the proper name for the public message board, and it’s an important name. This message board is where you’re supposed to ask questions to clarify details about the project before you place a bid. In theory, the buyer is supposed to read the comments on this message board and answer any questions that potential bidders might have so that they can make an informed decision about whether or not they want to bid, and if so, how much to bid. That’s it. That’s all this board is for.

Here’s what the clarification board (public message board) is NOT for:

  • Placing a bid. Bids MUST be placed via the proper bid form (the blue button on the other side of the page, where it says “Bid on this project”). If you place a bid on this message board, you’re breaking terms and conditions and could be suspended. Regular freelancer members have a finite number of bids that they can make per month, so this rule is to stop people who have spent their bids from trying to get an extra chance or ten (TIP: if you find yourself running out of bids each month, upgrade to Gold membership – you’ll get unlimited bids for a monthly fee). Also please note that there is a minimum bid amount of $30. You cannot bid lower than that, so bidding on the public message board is not a good way to get around this!
  • Uploading your samples. I actually don’t really know why there is the facility to upload files to the public message board – I don’t see any need for it and it can actually be damaging for freelancers to do so. People who post samples here should realise that because the board is public, ANYONE can access and download those files. ANYONE. Even people who are not registered Freelancer users. Even people who might collect samples and republish them elsewhere without your permission. Even (*gasp!*) buyers who might take your work without asking and not pay for it!
  • Uploading your CV (résumé). As above, remember that ANYONE can view files that are posted to the public message boards, so if your résumé contains your email address, your date or birth, your home address, etc etc, these all have the potential to be collected and abused by less scrupulous folk. This also breaks the next rule about…
  • Posting your contact details. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – it is against Freelancer’s rules to post your contact information ANYWHERE on the site, other than when you first register for an account. Contact information includes your email address, phone number, home address, instant messenger ID or any other way that someone might be able to contact you other than through the Freelancer site. It even includes not-so-cunningly disguised email addresses such as “name at domain dot com”. The reason? Freelancer have been clever enough and kind enough to provide the infrastructure for you to find work by hooking you up with employers. If you contact them outside of Freelancer, you dodge having to pay Freelancer’s commission fees if you win a project. Like it or not, Freelancer, as a business, are entitled to make money, just like you, so pay the darn commission fees and bid/accept bids properly! If you don’t, well then don’t be surprised if your account is suspended, much like the idiot featured in this Freelancer blog post.
  • Posting a project or advertising another website. I’ve seen this quite a lot lately. Buyers who don’t want to play by the rules or pay Freelancer’s fees, instead try advertising a project on the public message board. This not is not only a deliberate attempt to dodge fees, but these users usually have to leave a contact email address or IM ID to get people to respond, so that’s two counts of Freelancer felony! I’ve also seen people advertising their companies, their affiliate schemes or other freelance websites here. It’s not allowed!

Each project also has an associated private message board. This is ONLY available to people who have placed a bid using the designated bid form – you cannot send a private message to a buyer until you have placed a bid. On the bid form, right at the bottom, you will find a little check box that says “Also send a private message to the project seller”. Check this, and a message box will appear and you can tap out your message to the buyer. The message will only be sent when you confirm your bid. If you chose not to send a private message at the time of bidding, you can still do so later by accessing the project from your project table (Projects > My Projects). Thereafter, you can message the buyer in private to your heart’s content.

As with the public clarification board, you are NOT allowed to post your contact details on the private message board! The private message board is “private” in the sense that the message cannot be viewed by Freelancer users other than yourself and the buyer, but it does not mean that Freelancer staff cannot see it! If you post your contact details here, or try to bypass any other rules and regulations, Freelancer have access to all this information – they can and will use it as evidence to suspend your account, just like the guy in the Freelancer blog post I mentioned earlier.

By all means, if you trust the buyer, feel free to post your samples and your résumés on the private message board (but be careful to remove any contact information first) and continue to discuss the project. Remember that even if a buyer replies to your private message, even if they show interest in hiring you, hell even if they SAY they want to hire you – the project is not yours until you have received that all-important congratulations email from Freelancer.com asking you to accept or reject the project AND until you have actually accepted it!

As the saying goes, “to be forewarned is to be forearmed”. I’ve told you everything you need to know about the Freelancer message boards – now make sure you get it right!

 





A fundamental Freelancer.com flaw

4 02 2011

As regular readers of this blog will be well aware, I’m a fairly big fan of Freelancer.com. The site gets a lot of bad press and most people seem to find this blog after searching for the terms “Is Freelancer.com a scam?”. My answer to this is, and always has been “No”. The trouble with Freelancer, or rather the trouble with Freelancer users, is that they don’t read, understand and abide by the terms and conditions. Many people sign up for an account without having read what they are signing up for, and muddle their way along, thinking that this is the next get-rich-quick scheme.  Unsurprisingly for me, but apparently surprising to a lot of people, users who breach the terms -whether they realised it or not – quickly have their account(s) shut down. These people find their way here, or onto one of a number of complaints boards, and rant and rave about how unfair Freelancer.com is, when actually, it was their fault all along.

Surprising though it may be to regular readers of this blog, today I’m going to break with tradition and make my own complaint about Freelancer.com. I have found a chink in their armour; a situation where I find them to be completely accountable for the injustice that befell me today.

So the story goes like this. Yesterday afternoon, I spotted a project on Freelancer.com in which a chap requested editorial assistance with a document that appeared to be some kind of literary academic assignment. He’d posted the document to be edited online, so I could see that it was only very short, and placed a bid for $30. I specified in my bid proposal that I could copyedit the document and return it to him within 24 hours, and also requested a milestone payment of the full balance.

My bid was accepted – hurray! I clicked “accept” and received the official notification from Freelancer telling me that the project had begun. Having received the buyer’s email address, I immediately emailed the buyer, thanking him kindly for awarding the project to me, and requesting again (just in case he missed it in my bid) that he set up a milestone payment for $30.

Then nothing. OK, so it was late afternoon by then, perhaps the guy was busy.

When I sat down at my computer first thing this morning and checked my emails, there was still nothing from the buyer, so I logged into my Freelancer account and checked the project page. To my surprise, I saw that another freelancer was now the selected provider! How could this be?

Of course, my first instinct was to email the buyer, which I did, but I have still not heard from him. I guess he’s well and truly changed his mind, though the other provider he selected placed exactly the same bid and turnaround time, so I’m baffled by his indecision. Anyway, then, for the first time, I used Freelancer.com’s live help chat facility and spoke to a chap called Jeremy. He asked me for the project number and my Freelancer username, then went quiet for about 10 minutes while he checked my story. When he came back, he simply said, “The project was cancelled yesterday”. Well actually no, Helpful Jeremy, as you can see from the link to the project page I just gave you, the project is still open – you can see my bid there – but a different provider has been selected. How can this be?

Helpful Jeremy helpfully said, “I suggest you try contacting your buyer”. Yes Jeremy, I have done that, but he’s not going to refund me the $5 fee I paid to Freelancer now, is he?

Says Helpful Jeremy, “No. Please be aware that we do not refund commission fees. My best advice would be next time for you to request a milestone payment in advance”.

*Head -> Wall x 10*

But Helpful Jeremy, I DID REQUEST A MILESTONE PAYMENT. I specified this in my bid, and that bid was accepted. The buyer cannot physically set up a milestone payment until I have accepted the project, right?

“Yes”. I imagine if Helpful Jeremy had been speaking, not typing, he would have said this in a very quiet voice. Then, helpfully, “I understand your frustration Lisa, is there anything else I can help you with today?”

ARGH!!

I fail to see that I have done anything wrong in this situation, and as a result, I fail to see why I should forfeit the $5 fee for being a victim of the buyer’s indecision. The fundamental flaws in Freelancer’s system, as I see them, are as follows:

1) I was somehow “deselected” as the winning bidder, but was not informed by Freelancer.

While I was speedily informed by email that I was the winning bidder of the project, there was no email or notice from Freelancer to tell me that I had been “bumped” as the winning provider. Surely, when a buyer awards a project, and the freelancer accepts it, an agreement of sorts has taken place, and it should not be the case that the buyer can simply change their mind and select someone else at all, let alone without the deselected provider being notified. If I had been less careful and not looked at the project page this morning, I could have carried on with the editing work I believed I had been given to do, and been none the wiser. As well as losing my $5, I could have also wasted my valuable time on work that I didn’t have to do.

2) Freelancer does not refund project fees – even if the provider is bumped.

I get it. I get why Freelancer doesn’t usually refund project fees. They say that they are acting as an introduction agency between buyer and freelancer, and once they have done their job and connected the two, what happens next is up to the buyer and freelancer. This would be fine if work ensued, but in this case, the buyer backed out and chose someone else. Surely the buyer should pay the forfeit here, not the innocent freelancer?  What’s more, presumably the newly selected provider has now also paid a $5 fee, so Freelancer has earned an extra $5 here, at my expense, for doing absolutely nothing.

3) You cannot raise a dispute unless a milestone has been created, but what if a dispute arises before the milestone has been created as asked for?

In this case, if the buyer had set up a milestone and then changed his mind, I would be able to raise a dispute. The buyer would then be found to be clearly at fault, and I would be awarded the milestone payment. But, even though I requested one in the bid that he accepted, the buyer didn’t set up a milestone and I am left powerless (and $5 out of pocket).

Freelancer, to eliminate this loophole, I propose that if a provider has requested a milestone payment in their bid, it should be compulsory to set up that milestone at the time the buyer awards the project. Then, if the freelancer chooses to reject the project, the milestone can be returned to the buyer, and if the freelancer accepts the project, the milestone is created and held. If the buyer *then* decides to change their mind, the freelancer can raise a dispute. This seems to me to be a sensible and workable solution to a problem that discriminates against the powerless provider.








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