AuthorAID workshop participants gain free editorial support through new partnership

Read about a new program to offer free editing to Author AID workshop participants in this interview with INASP Associate Ravi Murugesan and Ben Mudrak, Global Communications Manager at AJE/Research Square.

INASP’s AuthorAID and the author communications company Research Square have struck a new partnership (see Pilot brings free editorial services to sample of AuthorAID community) to offer free editorial services to selected AuthorAID workshop participants.

We asked INASP Associate Ravi Murugesan and Ben Mudrak, Global Communications Manager at AJE/Research Square, about how the partnership came about and how AuthorAID researchers will benefit.

What do Research Square and AuthorAID do?

Ravi: Both AuthorAID and Research Square support researchers in communicating and publishing their work.

AuthorAID is a non-profit program with a small team, and we rely a lot on partnerships and volunteers to fulfill our mission. For example, we work with universities and research institutes in developing countries to embed training on research-writing skills and we have mentors in our online mentoring program who provide one-to-one support.

Ben: At Research Square, we provide services and tools designed to assist researchers around the world with preparing their manuscripts, posters, grants, and abstracts (through our AJE brand), while also helping make the process of publishing faster and fairer through our Research Square services.

In many ways, our support for the publishing process meshes nicely with AuthorAID’s expert focus on mentorship and training for researchers in developing countries. While AuthorAID lays the groundwork for a lifetime of research and publication success, Research Square can put its network of experts to use helping individual manuscripts get published.

How did you begin working together?

Ben: I joined Research Square to help develop an author-education program and quickly became aware of AuthorAID. I was very impressed by the project’s mission and its efforts to empower international researchers. In 2012, Research Square dedicated a fund to donate to organizations that support research, and AuthorAID was an obvious choice.

Ravi: The donation from Research Square through its AJE brand was a pleasant surprise. We decided to use it for workshop grants in the second half of 2012. After that, we have been in touch to discuss how we could further work together to support developing-country researchers in publishing their work.

How did this partnership come about?

Ravi: Soon after its donation in 2012, Research Square offered a 50% discount on the price of its editing service to a small group of researchers that had completed AuthorAID online courses. We later found out that there was very low uptake of this offer. This wasn’t surprising because even a 50% discount can keep a professional editing service out of reach for most developing-country researchers.

Ben: The 50% discount program didn’t take off as we’d hoped. When the time came to direct our funds for donation in 2014, we wanted to revisit the concept of assisting AuthorAID workshop alumni. That led us to reach out to Ravi for some initial discussions around providing free editing, and we are delighted to be launching the new program offering free services to a select group. At Research Square, we are always looking for ways to reach researchers directly, and AuthorAID’s strong position as a source of training and mentorship in developing nations has enabled us to maximize the impact of these free services.

Ravi: Many years ago I was an English language editor of research manuscripts, so I know how intricate and time-consuming this task can be. A lot of researchers need pre-submission editing of their manuscripts, yet many don’t know they need it, and even if they did, not all of them would have the money to pay for it. It is wonderful that Research Square is going to provide this important service free of cost to a group of researchers in the AuthorAID network.

Through our partnership we hope that hundreds of researchers in developing countries will benefit from a valuable editing service that will make their papers stronger before the peer-review process.

What editorial services are included?

Ben: In this pilot, selected AuthorAID workshop participants will be able to receive our Standard Editing service for one research manuscript. This service involves careful editing of the manuscript for language errors and improvements to word choice by a highly qualified editor with research experience in the appropriate field.

Who will benefit from the new pilot?

Ravi: For now, we will be rolling out the free editing offer to about 260 researchers from various developing countries. Each of these researchers has completed an AuthorAID workshop or online course since April 2014. They have also shown an acceptable improvement in their score from the pre-assessment quiz to the post-assessment quiz, so we feel they know the basics of research writing and scholarly publishing. With this knowledge they will hopefully be able to write up research manuscripts that are focused and well-structured. However, many of these manuscripts would certainly benefit from English editing before they are submitted to journals, and this is what Research Square editors would provide.

What do people need to do to take advantage of this opportunity?

Ravi: This opportunity will be made available to a specific group of researchers, as described above. We will be contacting them by email and giving them a coupon code and instructions on how to use it. Unfortunately we cannot make this opportunity available to the entire AuthorAID network because of the significant work involved in editing even a single manuscript.

Ben: Thanks to Ravi’s efforts, participating will be simple for those selected for the program. They will receive instructions and a coupon code by email. When an author has a research manuscript ready, participation is as easy as signing up at the AJE website and entering the coupon code when submitting the manuscript. Our dedicated Customer Support team is always available for questions about using our website.

How do you hope people will use this opportunity?

Ravi: At the outset, I hope we will see many people making use of the coupon code. The coupons will expire at the end of this year, so they need to write up a paper by then. It is very likely that not everyone will make use of the coupons – some people might be in the middle of doing research or they may not even be working on a research project this year. Later this year, we may roll out the offer to more AuthorAID course alumni depending on the uptake of the coupons.

Ben: We hope that researchers use the coupons to help them reach their publication goals more quickly and easily. Many of us at Research Square came from the research world, and we know that there are enough hurdles to get through without having to worry about the writing in a paper. Perhaps the deadline for the opportunity can spur some researchers to press forward with the important work they are doing, ensuring that their manuscript is ready for submission later this year. When research is communicated more quickly, we all benefit.

What insight do you hope to gain from this?

Ravi: We hope that this wonderful opportunity will help many developing-country researchers cross the final mile of the journey to publication. If this happens, it will be a major contribution to the AuthorAID mission, and we will be able to confirm our hypothesis that researchers in developing countries will benefit from a free editing service. We will speak with our partners at Research Square regularly about how many coupons have been used, and we might adapt our strategy as we go along.

Ben: We’ll be providing regular updates to AuthorAID and INASP about the usage of the coupon codes, letting us get a better sense of who is benefitting most from the program. This information will allow us to make changes to the system if needed. More importantly, we gain insight into the path to publication for researchers in developing countries: Where are the major hurdles? How much of their valuable time can be saved by providing language-editing services?

Will this be offered to attendees of 2015 AuthorAID workshops, too?

Ben: We hope to be able to continue the program for participants in this year’s AuthorAID workshops, but we will carefully analyze the results for the first set of researchers to ensure that we’re providing a clear benefit. And even if changes need to be made, there are many other ways that Research Square can collaborate with AuthorAID to support our missions. [Editor’s note: the program has continued in 2015 and 2016]

What other possibilities are there in the future for working together to support research writing in developing countries?

Ravi: I think it would be good to provide more one-to-one support to developing-country researchers. Perhaps we can think about combining training, mentoring, and English editing: researchers can start by getting trained on writing and publishing, then be mentored to write up a paper, and finally have their paper edited.

Ben: At Research Square, we are actively developing ways to support researchers from start to finish in the publication process. Future collaborations might also involve other services, either existing ones (like illustration or poster preparation) or new ones designed to help authors create manuscripts and share them with the broader research community.

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