Cynics call it science fiction — the planned research that is described in applications for scientific grants. But I love good science fiction, and I love reading the amazing research stories of these scientists. Luckily, more researchers are appreciating good editing in the increasingly fierce competition for research funding.
What kinds of editing do researchers need?
The same kinds as other authors.
You can follow the same strategies as with any author: review the entire application package if possible, discuss problems with the researcher, get their signoff for the level(s) of editing. Almost certainly, documents will need more than “proofreading.” Editors Canada’s definitions of editorial skills can frame the discussion, and some grant applications will need almost all those skills.
Scientific grant applications usually have specific challenges and needs beyond editing for clarity and consistency:
- Rigid limits on page or word or character counts (Check whether character limits include spaces!) and regulations to prevent cheating (no condensed fonts, no reduced line spacing)
- Many acronyms and abbreviations to track (or to eliminate for clarity)
- Unmoveable submission deadlines
Working with researchers can be satisfying, though. Often they will give an editor a free hand to “just do your magic.” Often they respect the editor (=better pay) as a word expert who complements their own scientific expertise. Projects are wonderfully diverse.
Do I need an advanced degree in the field?
Having some background in the broad area can help you spot errors and edit for clarity more easily. Knowing enough to avoid looking up every technical term is a clear advantage. However, you can do a perfectly good proofread or basic copy edit without training in the researcher’s field.
Your generally-knowledgeable-but-not-an-expert status is an advantage, too. You are a good proxy for grant application reviewers, who are often not experts in that precise field. You are also an excellent proxy for the lay audiences or government decision-makers who are the intended readers for some parts of grant applications. Applying your perspective makes the grant application easier to read for all its intended audiences.
Can I make a decent rate of pay?
Researchers frequently appreciate the value that an editor brings to their crucial grant applications:
- An eye for detail in following specific application requirements
- A non-expert eye to bring clarity to text that may be jargon-filled, buzzword-laden, heavy in passive voice and full of mile-long, complex sentences
- A non-expert eye to query or revise problems with logical flow (Does the research story make sense?)
- An eye for how well the research story matches the competition’s evaluation criteria
Offering this value positions you as a skilled professional who can charge premium rates.
How can I connect with scientific researchers?
- Through grant support programs at universities
- Through university departments in your broad field (think health sciences, not just nursing, for example)
- Through seminars and workshops targeting success in grant applications
Do you edit grant applications? Are problems and considerations similar outside science and health?
Previous post from Cathy McPhalen: Editing Niches: Back to School With Thesis Editing.
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