Why hire an editor?

How ‘the excitable editor’ is a valuable member of your team

Scientists and researchers communicate their work to the world via several written means. Journal papers, client reports and press releases are just a few of these channels of communication. Although scientists are passionate about the work that they do and are specialists in their fields of research, not all scientists enjoy writing.

Most scientists do not work in isolation; they are one member of a larger research team. Each member of the team has an area of expertise. Just as the success of that team depends on each member to perform their specialist duties with care and skill, successful communication of their research also depends on a team. This communication team might be made up of the author, their supervisor or team leader, research staff, students, technicians … and an editor.

If a researcher is working in their lab and the power suddenly cuts off, leaving the researcher in the dark, they would most likely call an electrician to resolve the issue because an electrician is an expert at everything to do with electricity supply and use. The role of an editor in science communication is similar. An editor is an expert in words, grammar, spelling, punctuation, and in improving the readability, consistency and professionalism of written communication. Science editors help to refine a paper until it faithfully reports the research in a way the intended audience can understand.

An editor provides a fresh pair of eyes for a paper, and can find errors that might be missed because of an author’s familiarity with the subject. Editors also provide an objective review of the writing. Because authors are so familiar with their work, it sometimes takes an outsider to point out that more or less information is needed, or some points need to be clarified, so that someone from outside the author’s laboratory can understand.

An editor is also an expert at finding things like the misspelled scientific name of a fungus, or a missing reference, or a typo.

Most science editors are passionate about what they do, and are excited at the prospect of assisting a researcher or their team communicate their message. Thus, the animated short The Excitable Editor was created by me to reflect on the work that I do as a science editor, and the satisfaction I feel when I am working in collaboration with a researcher on their research project.

What team couldn’t use the help of ‘the excitable editor’ from time to time?

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 Society for Editors and Proofreaders in the UK.