Oakleaf Scientific Editing
Georgia A Morgan • PO Box 53343, Shreveport, LA 71115-3343 • 318/918 4928 (mobile)
Oakleaf Scientific Editing came into being at the intersection of opportunity, need, and ability. I spent many years in the lab as a research associate, doing experiments, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. When I was living in the UK during my ex-husband's first post-doc, I had the chance to work for The Physiological Society on the journals the Journal of Physiology and the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Physiology, and to train to become a scientific copy editor/proof reader. I continued doing this freelance when we moved to Sweden, and I have been doing it ever since. I enjoy the challenge of technical writing and editing, because I know from both sides that a well written manuscript, thesis, grant proposal, or poster allows the science to shine through; when the reader has to stop and try to figure out what the author means, frustration sets in, and time, and attention, is lost. In the commercial setting, money is lost as well. When I had the chance to train to become a copy editor, my scientific background, experience, and love for science, coupled with my gift for language and writing, found an outlet, and provided a much needed service for many fellow scientists. I actually am that person who does not mind untangling your unwieldy manuscript.
When I first started editing, authors provided me with a paper copy of their work, which I edited and returned. Computers have made this much easier; I now receive work via email as a MS Word file, which I edit (using Track Changes) and email back. If I have questions or find areas of concern, I highlight them in the text and provide a detailed description of the problem, or ask my question, in the body of the email. I work with authors to ensure that all questions are answered completely; as I complete more work for a given set of authors, I find that we learn from one another and the process becomes quicker. I currently edit for authors in the US as well as authors in Europe, Asia, Russia, Africa, and Australia. Recently, I have begun asking authors to fill out an information sheet that includes the lead author’s name and complete contact information, the names of all of the authors, and the institution(s) where the research took place. This information is usually on the first page of a manuscript, but may not be when the work is a grant proposal, a poster presentation, a chapter in a book, etc.
With the advent of reference management software, I no longer edit the Reference section, nor do I check that all references cited in the work actually appear in it. I do edit tables, their titles, descriptions, and any footnotes, and I refer to figures when editing the figure legends. I also check whether all figures and tables have been referred to in the text, and notify authors when either tables/figures are missing, or they are not referred to. If I notice errors in the figures, I also alert authors, since figures are much harder to edit.
Some editors charge by the page; I charge by the hour. I spent some time evaluating which was best for both authors and the editor, i.e., which method resulted in the best editing for the fairest price. In my case, charging by the hour is fairer and more accurately represents the effort expended, since a long but well written paper costs authors less than a short, poorly written paper. Since I respect my clients and value their time as much as I value my own, I charge only for the actual time spent reading (I use the stopwatch on my phone).When I first started charging for editing, when I lived in Sweden, I based my fee on the fees charged by Swedish editors doing similar work for the Karolinska. When I returned to the US, I became a member of the American Medical Writers Association, and I was able to use information from their freelance section to help me set my fee.
I charge $50/h. As an example, a 20-25 page double spaced manuscript takes me about 3 hours to edit. Most of what I am doing is editing for language, syntax, usage, idiom, consistency, and clarity. As I mentioned above, I also look at the science, but mostly for consistency and sense; in other words, I do not stray much into the territory of the peer review unless needed (and if it is an area in which I have knowledge). When I have done extensive amounts of work for an author or group of authors, I edit their work for consistency with that in mind, which enables me to catch the small things that authors (including me, when I am writing for myself) no longer see when writing about an intensely familiar subject.
I used to be able to return work within 24 hours; however, as business has increased, I now aim to return work within 3 to 5 business days.
Authors based in the US usually pay me with a check issued by their institutions drawn from grant funds; I send an invoice along with the edited work. For authors outside the US, I send an invoice with request for payment through PayPal. The United States is not part of the EU, so instruments such as IBAN and SWIFT are not something banks here use. Payment is due upon receipt of the invoice; I usually do not send an invoice until any outstanding queries with respect to the manuscript have been answered to everyone's satisfaction.
Good research deserves to be disseminated widely via well written prose. I enjoy using my time, talents, experience, and training to help make that happen, because while authors deserve recognition for the time, effort, money, and intuition that drive research, they also need and deserve continued funding to keep research going.