to know the Peerwith experts episode #3
They get very high ratings for a reason:
the experts on Peerwith are great at what they do. We feel that human
interaction is really important in science collaboration and to help you to get
to know the experts a little better we asked them to answer a few questions. We
will regularly post their replies on this blog.
Robert, M.A., M.A. Hons.
Edinburgh University History and Economic History, M.A. TESOL (Teaching English
as a Second Language) Sunderland, Lecturer Luigi Bocconi Business School Milan
and Academic English teacher, Herriot Watt University, Edinburgh. Robert
specializes in the interesting combination of Medical and Social Sciences.
are the benefits of offering your services via Peerwith?
I have just signed up with Peerwith after
hearing of the project from a colleague in Italy. I believe the personal aspect
of connections is absolutely crucial when editing, as authors by definition
should be at the cutting edge of their own discipline: their ideas must be
understood to be reflected in the text. Editors and referees often have little
time to delve into the significance of any particular work so bringing that
message out is something essential for final acceptance or rejection. Dialogue between is therefore crucial to
clarify ideas (for the author) and understanding (for the editor) and also to
make the life of referees as easy as possible.
There will always be a learning curve but it is good to see long term
relationships build up with authors as the process of accurate writing goes
you have any tips for authors, do you see recurring mistakes in manuscripts?
After over 20 years in editing, I see the
same patterns of errors occurring again and again. Possibly, the most important
aspect usually mentioned in most guides for authors and yet overlooked by many
aspiring writers is the need for clarity. This is principally because it is
nowhere really explained what ‘clarity’ actually is! A good anecdote given to
me by a friend and a referee for an important journal is the ‘cigarette rule’
(yes, unfortunately referees of medical journals do smoke!). This goes along
the lines that if a referee cannot understand the basic idea of an article
within the time it takes to smoke a cigarette, then it will be rejected.
Brutal, but probably accurate. Thus, clarity in establishing what your message
is in the introduction must be made apparent even to the most reluctant (and
not necessarily specialized) referees who would really prefer to get home to
their dinner. This in linguistic terms is called CARS, ‘creating a research
space’ (J. Swales).
you as an expert, what is the biggest challenge when working with non-native first
This can usually be summed up in terms of
discourse (the organization of the work), pragmatics (convincing referees that
your work should be published in Nature now!) and cohesion (linking everything
together). In pragmatics, native English speakers have natural advantages but
simple discourse organization, writing clear coherent paragraphs with logical
progressions from one argument to the next is not a difficult process, although
it may be different to your own language discourse. Latin-based languages tend
to write very long complex sentences with a great deal of subjects, subordinate
clauses and so on. This does not make the article more academic but only more
obtuse. The bench mark for Medical writing clarity remains Crick and Watson’s
article back in the 50’s: an article which revolutionized medicine in 900
you have any plans for the holidays?
Holidays, with two small children I’m
looking forward to the peace and quiet of work!
Robert offers her services in: Scientific
editing, Translation services, Language editing, Copy editing, Publication
support and Peer review.
I graduated in History and Economic History
from Edinburgh University (and now work at Economics faculties in Italy
(Bocconi Business school – Milan) so I always, if inaccurately consider myself
a Historian. However, all my experience as author, editor and translator have
been in widely different subjects. First love has always been in the social
sciences including history, economics, agent-based modeling etc.
For a long time, I worked as translator/editor
together with doctors of various disciplines, finally working as a medical
writer (i.e., together with a team of doctors) working from the conception of a
research article. As such, I have published in medical journals on how to write
and more importantly publish medical articles for authors whose first language
is not English. This work included seminars (IMRAD) articles, distance learning
and conferences as well as straight forward editing and publishing.