Scientific Writing Training for Academic Physicians of Diverse Language Backgrounds

Cameron, Carrie PhD; Deming, Stephanie P.; Notzon, Beth; Cantor, Scott B. PhD; Broglio, Kristine R. MS; Pagel, Walter

Academic Medicine:
doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e31819a7e6d
Scientific Writing
Abstract

Research articles are the coin of the realm for anyone working in academia, and success or failure to publish determines a biomedical researcher’s career path. At the same time, the dramatic increase in foreign faculty and trainees in U.S. academia, as well as in international scientific collaboration, adds another dimension to this developmental vacuum: limited English-language skills. Paradoxically, few programs exist to develop and support the skills needed to accomplish the vital task of writing English-language research articles, which does not come naturally to most. To better prepare all trainees for research careers, editors in the Department of Scientific Publications at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center created an in-depth training program that would target the writing skills gap effectively. Instruction focused on structure, rhetorical organization, and the conventions of biomedical publishing. More than 300 trainees have participated in 22 workshops. Results of a survey of 46 participants at 6 months to 2.5 years after workshop completion indicated that participants from all language backgrounds believed the course to have improved their writing (97.8% strongly agreed or agreed), made it easier to begin a manuscript (80.4%), and helped them to get published (56.8%), with nonnative speakers of English reporting somewhat greater perceived benefit than native English speakers. On the basis of these results, the authors conclude that researchers of varied linguistic backgrounds appreciate the need for, and benefit from, instruction in the conventions of scientific writing.

Author Information

Dr. Cameron is senior educational specialist, Department of Scientific Publications, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas.

Ms. Deming is scientific editor, Department of Scientific Publications, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas.

Ms. Notzon is scientific editor, Department of Scientific Publications, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas.

Dr. Cantor is professor, Department of Biostatistics, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas.

Ms. Broglio is senior statistical analyst, Department of Biostatistics, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas.

Mr. Pagel is director, Department of Scientific Publications, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas.

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Cameron, Department of Epidemiology, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, P.O. Box 301409, Unit 1340, Houston, TX 77230-1439; telephone: (713) 794-1476; fax: (713) 745-1996; e-mail: (ccameron@mdanderson.org).

© 2009 Association of American Medical Colleges