It’s a term not much heard outside of its own niche, but author editor Valerie Matarese seeks to educate editors who might be interested in the role in her new book, Editing Research: The Author Editing Approach to Providing Effective Support to Writers of Research Papers. Matarese has edited biomedical sciences for her research authors for 20 years and teaches scientific writing and biomedical research article writing.
Defining the Author Editor
What is an author (or author’s) editor? Like most editing, the term is opaque and the task list can vary from practitioner to practitioner. Matarese takes the time to outline it definitively, but she offers two quotes that synthesize the ideas well:
An author’s editor is a person who reads trough a draft critically and makes any linguistic, stylistic, or contextual changes deemed necessary to ensure that the intended message is expressed logically, precisely, idiomatically, and appropriately, without cultural interference that could distort the message.—Sheryl Hinkkanen, “Translation and Author’s Editing of Biomedical Communications Written by Finish Authors” (Special Language: From Human Thinking to Thinking Machines, 1989)
Clearly authors’ editors do more than assist authors in preparing manuscripts for submittal. They advise authors on publication ethics, peer review, and the publication process. They act as mentor and advocate when circumstances seem to threaten authors’ rights.—Karen Shashok, “Author’s Editors: Facilitators of Science Information Transfer” (Learned Publishing 14:2)
I’d suggest, then, that author editing is a hybrid of what most of us know as substantive editing and copyediting, with writing and publication coaching thrown in for good measure.
What the Author Editor Does
Publishing research papers is crucial for researchers. It’s how they validate their findings and share those findings with others. To guide their authors, author editors must have an understanding of the science, of the journals’ processes and requirements, and, of course, of language.
Moreover, because publishing in English-language journals is important for researchers, author editors need to be skilled at working with materials written by English as an additional language (EAL) authors. Being able to communicate well with EAL speakers and understanding their culture is crucial as well.
The rest of the book is devoted to a thorough overview of what it is, what the editor does, the skills needed, how to get started, and the type of work settings available. The book is written in academic English, giving editors a taste of what they’d be working with.
My only complaint about the book is that it occasionally puts down other types of editing, downplaying their importance and value. The terminology introduced is sometimes self-aggrandizing more than useful, though it may be what researchers understand. If you can look beyond that (and it’s not overwhelming by any stretch), this is a very useful book.
If you’re thinking about getting into a new line of editing and you enjoy the sciences and research, Editing Research is a good survey of author editing. Further, it can help you decide on and take your next steps in becoming an author editor. It’s a small investment toward potential career growth.