Whenever I edit a poorly written manuscript, I wish that the authors were aware of the importance of writing concisely and clearly and of the proper structuring of a research report. That knowledge would save both their time and my time, and scientists who are not proficient in English could also save the money they may have to pay translators or author’s editors for substantial corrections of their manuscripts.
We can alleviate the problem by providing instructions for scientists and science translators. However, to be effective, the instructions must be concise and clear. That is why in 2010 the European Association of Science Editors (EASE) published its practical EASE Guidelines for Authors and Translators of Scientific Articles. The document is a result of long discussions on the EASE Forum and during the 2009 conference in Pisa that were followed by consultations within the EASE Council.1
In the 2011 edition, we have paid special attention to ethical issues to promote research integrity worldwide. More precise guidance is given on authorship, acceptable secondary publication, avoidance of plagiarism, and so on.2 A new appendix about ethics is a pioneering one-page compilation of authors’ ethical declarations. It reminds authors about the basic principles of ethical experimentation and scientific writing.
EASE Guidelines have already been translated by volunteers into 17 languages: Arabic, Bangla (Bengali), Chinese, Czech, Estonian, French, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Persian (Farsi), Polish, Portuguese (Brazilian), Romanian, Russian, Spanish, and Turkish. Some other translations are in progress. The English original and the translations are freely available as PDFs on the EASE Web site (www.ease.org.uk). Individual sections of the document, including several appendixes on selected issues (in English only), can be read directly on the Web site, which has hyperlinks to online references.
The guidelines are addressed not only to scientists but also to translators because of culture-related differences in scientific style. In some cultures, sophisticated vocabulary, complicated sentence structure, haziness, and excessive referencing are perfectly acceptable in scientific texts.3,4 In such cases, translators must suggest some corrections to the style of the original so that the resulting manuscript will meet the standards of scientific writing in English.
It is noteworthy that EASE Guidelines are a valuable tool for popularization of recommended solutions to many problems. For example, commas in numbers may be misinterpreted because decimal commas are used in many languages instead of the decimal point used in English. That is why the latest edition of Scientific Style and Format recommends that in numbers exceeding four digits, thin spaces (not commas) be used to separate groups of three digits in either direction from the decimal point.5 Another problem is that many databases (such as PubMed) include article titles and abstracts but not the list of keywords; hence, authors are advised to include all the relevant keywords in the title or abstract.
We hope that use of the guidelines will increase the efficiency of scientific communication all over the world. To aid in their popularization, we allow noncommercial printing of the PDFs. Thus, whole documents or individual appendixes may be used as handouts for postgraduate students. Courses in scientific writing and ethics can also be developed on the basis of the list of references and further reading.
CSE members are welcome to review the guidelines for themselves and to advise their authors to use them when it is appropriate. We invite journal editors to post the above mentioned link on their Web sites so that novice authors can check for guidance before submitting their manuscripts. Researchers will then understand editors better and will be able to spend less time revising their manuscripts after submission. Translators will be able to improve their scientific translations into English. All that should facilitate the publication process and enable science editors to focus on the scientific validity and accuracy of submitted papers.6 Finally, readers will benefit from more understandable and reliable scientific publications.
You can help us to achieve these goals for the common good.
- Ufnalska SB. Multilingual EASE guidelines for authors and translators. Learn Publish. 2010;23(4):331–332. Available from: http://alpsp.publisher.ingentaconnect.com/content/alpsp/lp/2010/00000023/00000004.
- Ufnalska SB. Updated EASE Guidelines promote research integrity worldwide. Eur Sci Edit. 2011;37(3): 98. Available from: http://www.ease.org.uk/artman2/uploads/1/easebiz98-99.pdf.
- Emmett K. Non-native English writing: an underestimated problem? Eur Sci Edit. 2008;34(3):70–71. Available from: http://www.ease.org.uk/pdfesearticles/ViewpointsCorrespondenceaug08p70-72.pdf.
- Ufnalska SB. Abstracts of research articles: problems of translation. Eur Sci Edit. 2007;33(4):101–104. Available from: http://www.ease.org.uk/artman2/uploads/1/ESE_nov07.pdf.
- Council of Science Editors. Scientific style and format: the CSE manual for authors, editors, and publishers. 7th ed. Reston (VA): Council of Science Editors; 2006.
- Ufnalska S. Major editorial guidelines need to be translated and popularized. Eur Sci Edit. 2010;36(2):40–41. Available from: http://www.ease.org.uk/pdfese/ESE_may10.pdf.
SYLWIA B UFNALSKA has worked as a freelance translator and editor of biological texts for nearly 20 years. She is an EASE Council member and editor of EASE Guidelines, in Poznan´, Poland. e-mail: email@example.com.