Newsletter No. 322

第322期 2008年9月4日 No. 322 4 September 2008 CUHK submitted just under 500 CERG proposals. During my time at HKU, I found that I was able to edit around 60 applications at most each year, during the six-week period from the beginning of September to mid-October. And as you can imagine, by the time I had finished I was mentally exhausted. Ideally, we should find a way to cope with these predictable periods of abnormal demand, and I’m exploring the possibility of getting some freelance assistance in the forthcoming CERG exercise—or GRF, as they now call it—so that we can edit as many grant applications as we possibly can before submission. But such peak periods apart, I find I can normally handle the research papers.’ Deadlines, Deadlines, Deadlines A professor who has spent months perfecting his Finsler Geometry for a paper may be forgiven for expecting a quick turnaround from someone who reads it for bad English. In fact, David has found that most of his colleagues are very patient and reasonable. ‘I normally try to give researchers an estimate of how long I will need to deal with their papers, and most of them accept that I’m not always going to be able to get their papers back to them on the following day. This week, for example, five researchers were sending me e-mails every two days saying “Sorry to bother you, but have you got any further with the research paper I sent you two weeks ago?” I explained that I was dealing with a raft of urgent grant proposals that had to be submitted to the RGC by the end of the week, and begged them to bear with me for a few days. They were all fine about it, and I think they realize that there are hundreds of them and only one of me.’ With a hefty workload breathing down his neck, what keeps David turning those pages? ‘The most interesting aspect of the job is the variety. You can be working on a study from the Faculty of Medicine on the use of dietary supplements by breast cancer patients in the morning, and dealing with a paper on perceptions of Chinese food in Japan from the (To be continued) The Gatekeeper of Academic Writing — Dr. David Wilmshurst Advice for Disappointed Researchers ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. You have probably spent several weeks drafting your grant proposal, and you are bound to feel discouraged if it is not accepted. But don’t give up. I would be happy to take a look at your proposal and tell you how, in my view, you could improve it. We all have room to improve, and we all can improve, if we put our minds to it. So go back, and try again next year.’ Tips for Writing a Good Grant Proposal ‘The most important thing is the abstract. It should contain four elements: the aim of the project, the project background, a brief—and I mean brief—description of the project, and last and most importantly, the project’s significance. The project description should probably account for less than a quarter of the total abstract. The key element is the significance of the project. Why is it important? Why is it worth funding? In my experience, a lot of researchers describe their projects at great length, but fail to properly bring out their significance. You are asking for money. Your abstract therefore needs to tell people exactly why your project deserves to be funded .’ There are over a thousand researchers at the Chinese University, some of whom are highly prolific, but only one Academic Editor. Having to ensure the writing of grant proposals—some applying for millions of dollars— and research papers—on average the length of a Henry James novella— are up to par must be a daunting undertaking. In fact, is it humanly possible? It is, but you need to be very good at what you do. And Dr. David W what it takes. on the task in hand.’ A day in the life of our Academic Editor typically begins with checking e-mails for requests for editing. On an average day, he gets about two or three. A 30-page research paper that is very well-written takes him a single day to edit. One that is not so well-written takes him two or three days, and one that requires serious rewriting, several days. With his experience, David has little difficulty in keeping on top of research papers, which tend to come in a constant, even flow. Grant applications are a different matter, however. Every two or three months, and particularly during the annual CERG (Competitive Earmarked Research Grants) exercise in September and October, he is flooded with editing requests for grant applications. ‘Last year A Scholar-Administrator A historian by training, David has a BA in classics and a DPhil in Oriental studies from the University of Oxford. He reads Chinese and several classical and modern European languages comfortably. In a previous incarnation he worked as an administrative officer for 13 years in the Hong Kong Government, helping to formulate policy proposals. He also spent several years in Taiwan writing, translating and editing business articles for the Taiwan Business News and editing research papers for Academia Sinica. His experience at Academia Sinica gave him a taste for academic editing, so when the University of Hong Kong advertised for an academic editor in 2002, he went for it. After five years at HKU, he has left the high-rises of the Mid-Levels for the greener pastures of the Chinese University. Besides having strong credentials, David is also an expert in what keeps any editor from getting snowed under—shrewd time management. ‘The most important aspect of my job is deciding priorities. I keep a list of everything that I’ve got waiting to be edited and I re-order it from day to day. I try as far as I can to control my time, but it’s not always possible. Occasionally, I am asked to draft important research policy documents, and when that happens I have to focus completely 第三二二期 二零零八年九月四日 No. 322 4 September 2008