Helping Chinese researchers write papers in English

Hugo Zhang
Director of Government Affairs, Reed Elsevier China

When I joined the Elsevier Science and Technology team in 2007, what most excited me was visiting Chinese journal editors, board members and researchers – I loved it.

One difficulty they brought up often was writing scientific papers in English, which for the majority of them is not a first language. In some cases, the science behind the papers was good, but the use of poor English lead to these papers being turned down by editors and reviewers. In others, the authors didn’t always understand or follow the specific requirements of the journals. Again, the language became a barrier.

We decided to do something about this. Working with the Elsevier S&T Journal publishing team, we launched author workshops in China focused on training young researchers to write papers using correct English. We’d invite experienced journal editors, board members and publishers to China to give training lectures to PhD students and young faculty members. From 2007-2012, Elsevier held up to 30 on-site author workshops each year.

We could have charged for such a service – the demand was, and still is, huge. However, we decided to make it a free program, a contribution from Elsevier to China’s research community. And a way to give something back: 14 percent of the papers Elsevier publishes come from this community each year.

The author workshops really are popular. I remember attending one in Sun Yat-Sen University (one of China’s top universities), and the auditorium with 200 seats was overflowing with 300 people. I had to give up my seat to a student so that she could take notes. As a result, I stood for the entire 2 hour session.

Even with 30 author workshops each year, we still could not meet the demand.  As a result, we partnered with ScienceNet.com to launch Paperpub.cn in 2008, a free website in China providing all training materials (including PowerPoint presentations and videos of previous lectures).

Throughout this process, I realised that corporate responsibility is not just about charity, but also about doing something to address the special, local needs of the community we serve in China.

Hugo Zhang

Sonia Rodrigeuz, vP, Human Resources, Reed Elsevier Technology Services