EditorsWA Winter Seminar, August 2018

August 28, 2018

On 25 August 2018, I attended and spoke at the annual Winter Seminar, held by EditorsWA, the Western Australian branch of IPEd, the national professional association for editors.

Here are my notes from two of the three sessions; the third session (on efficiency) was mine, so there are no notes for it.

Conflict of interest (Vanessa Herbert)

This was an interesting and thought-provoking session. Vanessa started by explaining what conflict of interest means, and that it can be actual, perceived, or potential. She then spent a bit of time discussing IPEd’s Code of Ethics and Code of Conduct members must abide by, and the Conflict of Interest Declaration that IPEd councillors, committee members, contractors or volunteers must sign.

But the most revealing part of the session was when we worked in small groups, discussing the three potential conflict of interest scenarios she posed for us. The biggest takeaway is that what initially appeared to be black and white, may not be, and that many shades of grey exist between those black and white stances. The group I was in found all sorts of fuzziness around the edges, making it difficult to come to a firm answer. Vanessa had made us aware of using false justifications, and that was the hardest part to reconcile.

As I said, thought-provoking. The bottom line is to be open and transparent in all dealings.

Scientific writing (David Lindsay)

Some notes I took during David’s session:

  • The theme of all good scientific stories:
    • how and why does it fit (or not) with other scientists’ work
    • how and where does it fit into the ‘real world’
    • what does it mean for science and the real world.
  • The primary aim of a scientific article is to be read by as many people as possible, and for those readers to be influenced by it.
  • These days, the influence of an individual article is measured by the number of citations it gets (i.e. citation indexes), and the influence of a scientific journal is measured by its ‘impact factor’ (i.e. number of articles from that journal cited in the past xx years). Many articles are never cited and many journals have an impact factor <1.
  • The secret of telling a scientific story is based on the principle of expectation:
    • Readers should have some idea of what to expect from the article (informative and interesting title, familiar structure, sections that deliver what’s expected [e.g. scientific method] and build expectation for what’s coming in the next section, writing style that is clear, concise, and brief [avoid being ‘impressive’, otherwise you’ll alienate readers]).
    • The hypothesis is just a prediction of what the scientist expected, and the rest of the article shows evidence to support or reject that hypothesis.
  • The scientific story has these parts:
    • title (must be interesting and informative to attract the reader)
    • introduction (two parts only—the hypothesis, and the reasoning that makes that hypothesis the most plausible explanation)
    • methodology and materials
    • results (prioritise—some are much more important than others, so spend more time and space on these; include those that relate to the hypothesis and those that don’t)
    • discussion (again, prioritise the arguments that support/refute the hypothesis; consequences for others and possibly the ‘real world’; discard anything that just adds fluff and doesn’t help tell the story)
    • references
  • Characteristics of good scientific writing—precise, clear, brief.
  • Every paragraph must have a conclusion and a way to lead into the next paragraph. Every sentence must follow on from the previous sentence.

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