Language Problems In Scientific Papers | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 89 Issue 8 | p. 4 | Letters
Issue Date: February 21, 2011

Language Problems In Scientific Papers

Department: Letters

I am a frequent reviewer of manuscripts submitted to food science journals. Many of the papers I review are in the field of food analytical chemistry, my specialty. I wonder if any other reviewers have noticed a trend that I have observed over the past few years. Many manuscripts from some countries in which English is not the primary language seem to be scientifically sound, but the writing is so poor that I have to reject them. I find myself spending significant time trying to edit the English. I correct misspellings, deconvolute convoluted syntax, rearrange wording to make it intelligible, and try to guess or interpret what the authors were trying to say.

I know that my job is to judge the manuscript on technical merit, and I am happy to volunteer time to the scientific community to review and ensure that only quality papers are published. However, I feel a sense of guilt when I reject a paper that seems to have technical merit but requires extensive rewriting to turn it into acceptably correct English. I wonder what other reviewers think about this and what they do in similar circumstances.

Maybe ACS could offer an editing/screening service for foreign authors (or any author!). This service would work with the authors to put their manuscript in acceptable English. Perhaps a small fee could be charged, and ACS could generate some additional revenue. This would make the technical reviewer’s job much easier and enhance the overall quality of scientific publications in the world.

Joseph E. Jablonski
Palos Hills, Ill.

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