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Acknowledging editing and translation: A pending issue in accountability

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This is the accepted manuscript of a Letter to the Editor published in Accountability in Research on 10
March 2020. Please cite this green OA version as: Matarese V, Shashok K. 2020. Acknowledging editing and
translation: a pending issue in accountability. Accountability in Research, Accepted author version 29
February. DOI: 10.1080/08989621.2020.1737525. If you have access to the journal's version at, please consult and cite that version
as: Matarese V, Shashok K. 2020. Acknowledging editing and translation: a pending issue in accountability.
Accountability in Research, xx(yy): aa-bb. DOI: 10.1080/08989621.2020.1737525.
Acknowledging editing and translation:
a pending issue in accountability
Valerie Matarese, Authors’ Editor and Editorial Consultant, Vidor, Italy,,
ORCID 0000-0003-2687-194X
*Karen Shashok, Translator and Editorial Consultant, Granada, Spain,,
ORCID 0000-0002-2506-1390
*Corresponding author
Hosseini and Lewis (2020) examined authorship in the European Code of Conduct for Research
Integrity (ECCRI), highlighting challenges in defining accountability and responsibility for
contributors to published research. They recommended that ECCRI provide more detailed guidance
on when and how authors of research articles should acknowledge the contributions of persons who
do not meet authorship criteria. Non-author contributions, as summarized by Hosseini and Lewis,
are “administrative, technical, lingual, editorial, supervisory and financial support tasks”.
As providers of linguistic and editorial services for researchers, we applaud Hosseini and Lewis for
recognizing the “growing importance of editorial and translation contributions” in light of
widespread awareness that this support influences research reporting and merits acknowledgment.
However, we wish to clarify that editors and translators who support research writing do not work
only for non-English speakers. Translation is often used by researcher-authors who speak English
but are not proficient in written academic English. Likewise, editing is valuable to both native and
non-native English speakers. In fact, the profession of editing for researcher-authors originated in
the USA after World War II, when researchers there were overwhelmingly native English speakers.
This profession, called author editing, subsequently spread to non-anglophone countries,
particularly research-intensive nations in Europe and Asia. The history, roles and attributes of author
editing, and the working methods of authors’ editors, are documented in a body of literature going
back 50 years (see Matarese, 2016).
Accountability and responsibility for non-author contributors to research publications is an
unexplored topic in publication ethics. However, translators and authors’ editors (T&AEs) who
work with researchers are now studying how these professionals wish to be credited, and how
researchers react to acknowledgment requests (Burrough-Boenisch, 2019; Matarese and Shashok,
2019). Journals may require a certificate from T&AEs as evidence that authors whose first language
is not English sought help before submission. But this requirement apparently serves to ensure
compliance with the journal's instructions to seek help rather than to make T&AEs publicly
accountable. Medical journals often require medical writers to be acknowledged, but may not apply
this requirement to T&AEs, leaving acknowledgment of these contributors to the authors’
discretion. Moreover, some authors are reluctant to acknowledge their use of language services.
Practices also vary among T&AEs: some forego acknowledgment because they believe it
inappropriate or unnecessary, or worry that their reputation may be harmed by errors made during
later revisions or editorial processing (Burrough-Boenisch, 2019). Burrough-Boenisch (2019) noted
that, “Although both authors and editors might prefer editing assistance not to be acknowledged, not
disclosing such assistance runs counter to the principle of transparency in scientific and scholarly
publication”. Authors, irrespective of their first language, should “not feel that acknowledging
professional language assistance compromises their reputation in their academic or scientific
community” (Burrough-Boenisch, 2019). Perhaps the time has come for institutions and publishers
to refine their policies on acknowledging translation and editing, to reflect the growing role of these
contributions and meet expectations for appropriate accountability and responsibility.
Funding: No funding was provided to either author for preparing this letter.
Disclosure statement: Both authors are self-employed and recognize that publication of this letter
might attract potential clients.
Data availability statement: No data were collected for this letter.
Burrough-Boenisch, Joy. 2019. “Do Freelance Editors for Academic and Scientific Researchers
Seek Acknowledgement? A Cross-sectional Study.” European Science Editing 45 (2):32-37.
Hosseini, Mohammad, and John Lewis. 2020. “The Norms of Authorship Credit: Challenging the
Definition of Authorship in the European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity.” Accountability
in Research 27 (2):80-98. doi:10.1080/08989621.2020.1721288.
Matarese, Valerie. 2016. Editing Research: The Author Editing Approach to Providing Effective
Support to Writers of Research Papers. Medford, NJ: Information Today. ISBN 978-157387531-8
Matarese, Valerie, and Karen Shashok. 2019. “Transparent Attribution of Contributions to Research:
Aligning Guidelines to Real-Life Practices.” Publications 7: 24. doi:10.3390/publications7020024.
... 4). In a follow-up paper, Matarese and Shashok [57] noted that language editing services are valuable to both native and non-native English users, as academic English writing can be challenging, although the acknowledgment of these services is often overlooked by both authors, translators, and editors. This would be a direct violation of the ethics codes, for example, stipulated by COPE and the ICMJE. ...
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Acknowledgements are usually a minor part of scientific papers, but they serve a very important function. This section of the manuscript is normally reserved to thank those who offered assistance, but not enough to merit authorship, funders, or any other people or organizations or artificial intelligent tools that may have in any way been directly associated either with the research reported in that study, or with the published paper. Despite this, it is not uncommon to see wide disparities in ethics and author guidelines pertaining to acknowledgements, as was observed in 45 publishing-related entities (journals, publishers, preprints, ethics organizations, open access aggregators) that were assessed in this study. Greater standardization is required, especially among members of ethics policy groups such as the Committee on Publication Ethics or the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors. Moreover, even though verification is an essential step of this process, it is difficult to achieve.
The existing credit allocation method of coauthored research paper could not tell the whole story about who did what and the acknowledgment of different parts of the article. When an article is cited, the first author often gets the primary or even full credit, even if the citing paper cites the method part of the article, which is mainly contributed by the second author. This study proposes a context-based author credit (CAC) model to allocate individual credit to coauthors in a multi-authored paper. In the proposed model, coauthor's credit is conceptualized as a directed and weighted connection between citations and contributor roles, where the relationship was decided by citation context. Citation strength was used in the proposed model instead of the number of citing papers which can make the credit of research more precise. The proposed approach can complement existing measures of author credit analysis based on author signature order. In our experiments, the model was validated by fitting to empirical data, a group of highly productive authors’ articles and their citing papers, from PLOS Medicine. The results show that CAC model outperforms prior alternatives such as normal, fractional, harmonic counting and author contribution solely based on contribution list in terms of reflecting the specific performance of coauthors. Besides, the CAC model has a certain sensitivity to the contributions of lower-ranked authors, breaking through the restriction of the author's signature order. This paper also provides the new application of this model in author academic evaluation.
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The practice of assigning authorship for a scientific publication tends to raise two normative questions: 1) ‘who should be credited as an author?’; 2) ‘who should not be credited as an author but should still be acknowledged?’. With the publication of the revised version of The European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity (ECCRI), standard answers to these questions have been called into question. This article examines the ways in which the ECCRI approaches these two questions and compares these approaches to standard definitions of ‘authorship’ and ‘acknowledgment’ in guidelines issued by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) and the World Association of Medical Editors (WAME). In light of two scenarios and the problems posed by these kinds of ‘real-world’ examples, we recommend specific revisions to the content of the ECCRI in order not only to provide a more detailed account of the tasks deserving of acknowledgment, but to improve the Code’s current definition of authorship.
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Research studies, especially in the sciences, may benefit from substantial non-author support without which they could not be completed or published. The term “contributorship” was coined in 1997 to recognize all contributions to a research study, but its implementation (mostly in biomedical reports) has been limited to the inclusion of an “Author Contributions” statement that omits other contributions. To standardize the reporting of contributions across disciplines, irrespective of whether a given contribution merits authorship or acknowledgment, the Contributor Roles Taxonomy (CRediT) was launched in 2014. Our assessment, however, shows that in practice, CRediT is a detailed authorship classification that risks denying appropriate credit for persons who contribute as non-authors. To illustrate the shortcomings in CRediT and suggest improvements, in this article we review key concepts of authorship and contributorship and examine the range of non-author contributions that may (or may not) be acknowledged. We then briefly describe different types of editorial support provided by (non-author) translators, authors’ editors and writers, and explain why it is not always acknowledged. Finally, we propose two new CRediT taxa and revisions to three existing taxa regarding both technical and editorial support, as a small but important step to make credit attribution more transparent, accurate and open.
Full-text available
Editors who work directly with academic researchers, helping to make their draft manuscripts suitable for publication in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, refer to themselves as "authors' editors." As a profession, author editing has been around for more than a half-century, but its role in research communication is often underappreciated and sometimes misunderstood. In this book, authors' editor and former researcher Valerie Matarese documents the history of author editing and illustrates, through interviews with experienced editors, the varied ways in which these language professionals support researchers in their efforts to publish. Editing Research fills a void in the historical record of academic publishing and provides an up-to-date account of how authors' editors facilitate research communication and contribute to good publication practice.
Objective: To investigate the practice among freelance language professionals relating to seeking acknowledgement for editing texts by EAL (English as an additional language) scholars and scientists. Methods: Freelance editors were recruited from three European organisations for freelance editors and translators. They completed an 8-question online survey (country of residence, broad area of specialisation and acknowledgement for their work). The data analyses are descriptive. Results: There were 131 respondents, residing in 16 countries and representing four broad disciplinary areas (biomedicine (36;27.5%), humanities (27;20.6%), science (31;23.7%) and social science (37;28.2%). Netherlands-based editors were the largest group (60;45.8%). Only 19 (14.5%) of all respondents always actively encouraged authors to acknowledge language assistance: The two main reasons for always or sometimes seeking acknowledgement were ethics and self-publicity, each mentioned by 33(60%) of the 55 ‘always’+ ‘sometimes’ respondents) Among the remaining 76 respondents, the two most frequently mentioned reasons for not seeking acknowledgement were never having thought about being acknowledged (24;26.7%) and the expectation that authors would introduce errors in the text before publication (21;23.3%). Conclusions: Seeking acknowledgement is not a priority among these editors. They fear their work and reputation will be compromised by authors introducing post-editing errors and infelicities unintentionally and without consultation. Keywords: Freelance editors, English as an additional language authors, science editing, academic editing, academic ethics