Scheme helps polish developing country science papers

SciEdit adapts texts in accordance with the standards of journals such as Nature Copyright: SciDev.Net/Nightingale

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A free editing service for developing country researchers who are trying to publish their work has been launched by students from leading academic institutions.

The service, SciEdit, is run by a team of undergraduate and postgraduate students in Canada, Europe and the United States. They aim to provide detailed editorial feedback in accordance with the standards of journals such as Nature and Science — where many of them have been published.

SciEdit is the brainchild of the Journal of Young Investigators — a student-led, peer-reviewed journal for undergraduates with members from more than 30 academic institutions including the All India Institute of Medical Sciences and Shandong Normal University in China.

"There’s a lot of innovative [research] going on in developing countries … and it’s not being represented well in international literature, unfortunately," Justin Chakma, a researcher at the McLaughlin-Rotman Centre for Global Health in Canada and co-founder of SciEdit, told SciDev.Net.

Most international scientific journals are written in English, making it difficult for non-native English speaking scientists to compete, says Chakma.

"Prospective authors may be unfamiliar with editorial conventions, face pressure to write in English and be uncertain about which journals to submit to," he says.

He adds that smaller journals may reject manuscripts that require more editing than they can afford to provide.

"Most of what we offer is along the lines of the grammar, the conventions, the style that you need," he explains. "But we also offer, if [the researchers] want, feedback on the science because we have graduate students across a variety of disciplines."

Response so far to SciEdit has been quiet — "about ten manuscripts". All of these have been submitted to journals and are awaiting acceptance. Feedback from the authors — in China, India and Nepal — has been positive so far. "[The service] has helped them to tighten their writing; tighten their arguments."

Chakma says that their service would complement that of AuthorAID, run by the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP), which, he says, offers higher-level scientists who may have less time to spare.

Julie Walker, head of publishing support at INASP, welcomes SciEdit: "There is definitely a need for these kinds of projects and services."