LINGUIST List 7.627

Fri Apr 26 1996

Disc: Value of editing vs. research

Editor for this issue: Ljuba Veselinova <>


  1., Value of editing vs. research

Message 1: Value of editing vs. research

Date: Wed, 17 Apr 1996 22:12:24 CST
From: <>
Subject: Value of editing vs. research

The question of what would be the proportional value of editing
(i.e. pre-editing a research manuscript for publication) to that of
doing the original research work is not an uninteresting one.

Our university, as all public universities in Mexico whose researchers
form part of the National System of Researchers or private foundations
receive, with their grants, funds for having their papers translated
or polished by a translator-pre-editor (TPE). However, this applied
linguistics post appears not to be a universal tradition in all

The TPEs in my department insist on either a privately negotiable
payment (around 20x prevailing minimum hour/wage per page) and/or to
be included in the acknowledgments section of the article.

Being included in the acknowledgments section of articles has a value
for yearly production bonus payments (usually paid on a monthly basis)
from the federal government at about 10% of the other criteria, being:
1) academic or professional degree, 2) tenure, 3) years of service, 4)
being an MS/MD/PhD student advisor, 5) author/ coauthor of original
published research with peer reviewing, 6) national congress
participation, 6) international congress attendance/ participation
with an oral/poster session, 8) academic senate or administrative
committee work, 9) academic/civic prizes or honors and 10) consulting
work done in the calendar year.

Of course, TPE work will be listed under the `consulting' section and
the wording of the acknowledgments section is very important. I
always recommend that it say: "We wish to acknowledge Professor A. B's
critical reading of our MS." Copies of the full articles are sent
with the yearly report for bonus payments. Ten to 15 manuscripts sent
a year should yield 3 to 4 articles published in the international
peer-reviewed literature if the TPE is working with 5 or 6 research
teams. This rule of thumb COULD be construed as giving the
pre-editing work a smaller value than doing research itself if we make
the calculation on the basis of work that is actually accepted and

The battle to overcome the prejudice towards the non-first world
"return address" by peer-reviewers and editors in the first world is
even more important than the TPE work itself. There are cases of MSs
without one spelling error or one grammatical anomaly being returned
to the authors with the notation "Please consult a native speaker of
English before resubmitting the MS." Only 2% of articles published in
_Science_ in 1993 were from countries other than France, Germany
Japan, UK and the USA. Once published, the article in a journal that
overcomes this syndrome may be worth as much as, from the TPE's point
of view, the researcher and her/his coauthors' work. That the third
world scientist is not treated fairly is obvious; and that his/her
TPE's work will suffer the same fate is even more obvious.

Furthermore, if one does not have the full complement of bonus payment
criteria, the TPE's work will have, for all practical purposes, no
value. In other words, nontenured TPEs must depend on private payment
not on a bonus system to be paid a fair wage for the work of
translating and/or pre-editing scientific manuscripts written up by
research teams for publication.

My article for Aizu University's occasional papers edited by T. Orr in
early 1995 explains the methodology for the TPE and can be seen on the
web at

R. M. Chandler-Burns
School of Medicine
Autonomous University of Nuevo Leon
Monterrey, MEXICO
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