Clarity in Science Editing and Writing

Understanding the difference between hiring a scientific editor or technical writer and an unethical ghost writer.

You may be hesitant to use a service such as Clarity in Science Editing and Writing because you have heard so many negative things about “ghost writers” and what a bad thing the publication of such “papers for hire” is for science and medicine. So, what’s the scoop? What is fair, honest, ethical and helpful to your career, and what crosses the line into an unethical practice?
There are people who are true experts in this field and who have written far more, and far more eloquently that I will about this subject. I will include some links for further reading if you wish. But here I will provide some important distinctions that will increase your comfort with the idea of using a professional scientific editor or technical writer, whether as an author or when you encounter their use in a manuscript you are reviewing for a journal, and can help you to distinguish between ethical use of editorial and writing assistance and unethical ghost writing.

One concern you may have is that the editor or technical writer you use may not be the full expert in your field that you think should be writing your paper. (Here at Clarity in Science we try to provide scientific editors with as much experience in your field as possible, but obviously they will never be the expert you are in the subject!) How does that work? Well, your scientific editor may not be expert in the technical details of your science, but he or she should be expert in writing, publication, and formatting according to journal specifications. That is the skill you expect your scientific editor to bring to the table. There is an analogy that may be helpful. Most of us use statistics collaborators, including them on our grants (always a good idea if you want to get funded!) and as authors on our papers. Yet these people often do not fully understand the technical details of how you generated your data. We don’t expect that of them. They bring a different expertise to the work. And we acknowledge their work, with authorship where appropriate, and otherwise with a clear acknowledgement and statement of appreciation in the manuscript.

Really, in the end, it all comes down to clear, honest attributions of the work done. Every now and again you may believe that a technical writer’s contribution merits authorship. While this is unlikely with the services provided by Clarity in Science Editing and Writing, that is a conversation we can have if you wish. What is required for the service to be ethical, in our opinion, is a statement that we will add to your acknowledgement, which reads “Editing services provided by Clarity in Science Editing and Writing (ClarityinScience.com).” That’s all you need.

For more on this topic, take a look at some of these links, and follow the links within them:

https://www.amjmed.com/article/S0002-9343(12)00435-4/fulltext
https://www.forbes.com/sites/larryhusten/2012/02/16/industry-supported-editorial-assistance-the-debate-continues/?sh=49fc9e7f7cb4
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20508997/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3936972/
https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1185/030079905X28944
https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Mythbusting-Medical-Writing%3A-Goodbye%2C-Ghosts!-Help!-Hamilton-Gertel/8dc66aaa0079fed5b7d37732d30c137a76ebf49d

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