Academic journal article Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics

A Practice-Theory Analysis of Scientific Editing by Translators

Academic journal article Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics

A Practice-Theory Analysis of Scientific Editing by Translators

Article excerpt

Against the backdrop of extensive demand for English-language editing of scientific papers, this article sets out to examine the practice of scientific editing as performed by translators in an institutional setting. It takes a novel approach to the study of scientific editing by drawing on practice theory to conceptualize editing and translation. This conceptual approach is supported analytically with data gathered through workplace observations in the language services department of an international scientific research organization. The article thus constructs a materially aware and dynamic account of the practices of linguists in the context of international scientific communication and publishing.

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International exchange of scientific knowledge today frequently happens through English, the lingua franca of science. Many international science journals publish exclusively in English, and scientists throughout the world aim to submit their research, written in English, in pursuit of international dissemination and reach. Moreover, the quality of researchers' work is often judged institutionally in terms of their ability to publish in leading international journals. Increasingly, scientific publishers provide translation and editing services to their potential non-Anglophone authors. Elsevier, for example, offers English-language editing services, as well as a translation service between English and other languages. Elsevier's editing services are offered at three levels and price points. For each of these services, the publisher's undertaking is that the author's manuscript will be edited by an English native speaker with a relevant scientific background, holding or studying for a PhD. Editors are described as having "excellent communication skills," and they undergo "extensive training" and "frequent performance reviews" ("Language Services" n. pag.). Similar services are offered by other academic publishers, as well as a myriad of international editing companies; Editage is one example, among many.

Against the backdrop of extensive international demand for English-language editing of scientific papers, this article sets out to examine the practice of scientific editing as performed within a scientific research organization in a non-Anglophone European country. The editing in focus here is performed by language specialists who spend much of their working life translating, predominantly into English. This editing seems likely to share some characteristics with scientific translation, while also resembling the technical editing done by monolinguals. The practices of in-house translators and project managers have been studied in commercial and institutional workplaces (see Mossop; Buzelin, "Independent" and "Translations"; Koskinen; Risku; Desilets et al.; Karamanis, Luz, and Doherty; Risku et al.; LeBlanc, "Translators"; Ehrensberger-Dow and O'Brien; Ehrensberger-Dow and Heeb; Olohan and Davitti; and Olohan, "Knowing"). However, the work of translators as scientific editors has not been examined in workplace studies to date. Where editing figures in some previous workplace studies, it is in the form of post-editing of machine translation, as part of the practice of translating. In parallel, research in the field of technical communication studies tends to focus on technical editing in monolingual settings (see Thompson and Rothschild; Wager and Middleton; Rice-Bailey) or "convenience editing" by English teachers in non-Anglophone settings (see Willey and Tanimoto). This article seeks to identify key features of scientific editing as performed by translators in an institutional setting. In doing so, it aims to contribute to establishing how this practice resembles and differs from those other practices.

The article offers a novel approach to the study of scientific editing by drawing on practice theory to conceptualize editing and translating. This conceptual approach is supported analytically with data gathered during a period of workplace observations in the language services department of an international scientific research organization. …

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