Providing Scientific Writing and Editing Services to Chinese Researchers: Opportunities, Challenges, and Strategies for Fruitful Collaboration


Scientific writing assistance is in high demand in many countries, including China. In China publishing research articles in prestigious scientific journals is more than sharing research results. To a certain degree, it’s about recognition, career advancement, and even survival.

Chinese researchers have long been encouraged to publish in English journals. Current academic rules value English publications more than Chinese publications. Minimum numbers of publications in journals included in the Science Citation Index (SCI) database are requisites of graduation, employment, and promotion. And a journal’s impact factor is one of the most important factors that Chinese researchers consider when choosing a target journal for manuscript submission. In general, the higher the impact factor of a journal, the more strongly Chinese researchers desire to publish in such a journal. In China, the total number of published journal articles along with the impact factors of the journals where the articles are published is commonly used to judge a researcher’s scientific merit.

However, writing scientific articles in English poses a great challenge to many Chinese researchers, especially those who have never studied or worked in English-speaking countries. Besides language barriers and cultural differences, many Chinese researchers, like many native-English speaking researchers, have difficulty telling their scientific story logically, coherently, and concisely. In addition, many of them have yet to acquire the habit of checking and following their target journals’ Instructions for Authors before or while writing their manuscripts.

Naturally there is a great need for English writing and editing assistance in China. As a result, English writing and editing assistance provided by professional writers and editors like AMWA members is in high demand.


Many professional English writers and editors, including AMWA members, are interested in providing scientific writing and editing services to Chinese researchers. However, challenges exist for both Chinese researchers and professional scientific writers and editors. The two main challenges are: coming up with scientific writing service rates that are acceptable to both parties, and finding a channel through which the two parties can directly work together.

Acceptable rates to both parties

Limited funding and a lack of knowledge on the scientific writing and editing profession are the two main reasons that Chinese researchers are reluctant to pay the rates proposed by professional writers and editors.

In China, those who need publication, and scientific writing assistance, the most are graduate students and junior level researchers­—the former needs publications to graduate and the latter needs publications to secure tenure positions. However, these two groups generally have zero or only limited funding and often can’t afford professional writing or editing services. Under the pressure of publishing in English journals, some of these individuals, however, might be willing to hire editors to improve their manuscripts, either using their limited research funding or out of their own pockets. But many of them seek professional help only after their manuscripts have been rejected because of poor writing qualities.

Limited collaboration channels

A professional organization like AMWA does not yet exist in China—a group of Chinese medical writers recently formed a China Medical Writers Group but its focus so far is on pharmaceutical/clinical/regulatory writing. The vast majority of Chinese researchers don’t know AMWA, and they have no idea where to get professional scientific writing and editing assistance to improve their writing. Currently, most of the author-editor relations between Chinese researchers and western editors are built through scientific journals or for-profit editing agencies.

Some scientific journals have their own small pools of freelance copyeditors, and the editors of these journals sometimes recommend the copyeditors to authors whose manuscripts need to be polished prior to the peer-review process. But the problem is that only a small number of editors have the privilege of being included in the pools. For-profit editing agencies can serve as bridges between professional editors and researchers, but they—because of their for-profit nature—can also block the communication channel and thus affect efficient collaborations between researchers and editors.

Strategies of Building Fruitful Author-Editor Collaboration

Enhancing education

Education is the best strategy for professional editors to convince Chinese researchers to accept the editors’ regular rates. If you are a professional editor and your service rates are challenged by Chinese researchers, talk to them and let them know what scientific writing and editing are about, inform them the types of scientific writing and editing service you can provide, and stress the value that your service can add to the researchers’ career advancement.

If your potential clients truly can’t afford your full scientific writing and editing service (eg, students) and you are not willing to reduce your rate, consider breaking down your service into smaller pieces (eg, providing overall comments and suggestions, correcting grammar errors, improving the logic, etc) and let the authors choose the service(s) they need and want the most.

Building alternative collaboration channels

  • Forming a free exchange forum. In my opinion, it’s the best if the researchers and editors can directly work together—saving time and money for both parties. An online forum where Chinese researchers and professional editor can freely seek collaboration opportunities would benefit both parties. At International Biomedical Communications, we are exploring the possibility of setting up such a forum.
  • Practicing “direct-to-consumer” adverting. As I mentioned earlier, many Chinese researchers don’t know where to seek professional scientific writing or editing assistance. So it’s necessary for professional writers and editors to advertise their scientific writing and editing services directly to Chinese researchers. This is actually an area where AMWA could do some great work. For example, the AMWA’s marketing team could promote AMWA and AMWA’s freelance database at professional meetings attended by Chinese, and other ESL researchers. AMWA could also advertise in Chinese scientific journals.
  • Teaching at Chinese universities. Experienced English teachers are needed at almost every single Chinese university. Teaching at Chinese universities can help editors establish their credibility among Chinese students and faculty members, and it’s a great way for the editors to turn the faculty members into longtime clients.

Please leave a comment and let us know what you think.

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