An editorial series dedicated to scientific English


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There are many dialects of English, and emotions can run high in the pursuit of protecting them. People can also get very worked up about differences in spelling between UK and US English. But for science, what matters is accurate and consistent use of words, and I’m afraid that very few people – even scientists – seem to care enough about that. This isn’t a pedantic point, because natural language suffers from enough intrinsic inaccuracy and inconsistency as it is without adding a touch of sloppiness; it is, therefore, not the best potential way of expressing science. However, it is the only way of communicating complicated scientific concepts between humans. When English is used in science, a much higher threshold for accuracy and precision needs to be set in order that concepts are communicated as accurately and precisely as possible. Because that is one of the most important aims for editors too, I started a series of editorials in BioEssays under the title “On the state of scientific English and how to improve it”. Read this, if, for example, you ever wondered why it’s important to distinguish between “which” and “that”. In a previous editorial I discussed the importance of defining “function” and “functional” in evolutionary genomics. “Complex” and “complexity” are also tricky words to use correctly; and a theme that I recognize is that most of the time it’s words that are frequently used in common parlance that cause the problem. Why even define them, if they’re used so often in normal conversation anyway? But that’s precisely the point: meanings, usage and connotations can differ greatly between conversational, literary and scientific English. Scientific English is yet another derivative of the language, and one that needs to be learnt with particular attention to definitions and unambiguity of expression. /by Andrew Moore

Andrew Moore is Editor-in-Chief of BioEssays

On the state of scientific English and how to improve it – Part 1 – English: What a ‘slovenly’ language it has become…

On the state of scientific English and how to improve it – Part 2 – Define what you mean

On the state of Scientific English and how to improve it – Part 3

Related content: Writing Scientific Research Articles: Strategy and Steps, 2nd  Edition by Margaret Cargill and Patrick O’Connor


“Getting Published” – science communication and dissemination


BiotecVisions is pleased to announce that our “Getting Published” column has now a new home on the Wiley Life Sciences blog.  

Our “Getting Published” column has evolved from providing purely “Writing Tips” to our audience, to its current form of covering everything to do with the publication and promotion of scientific research. Our goal however, has not changed throughout – to provide the information needed by you, the researchers to better communicate and disseminate your research results to a wider audience.

“Getting Published” covers these five broad categories:

  1. How to write scientific articles
  2. How to prepare articles for peer-review
  3. How to decide which journals to submit your research
  4. How to succeed in the peer-review process
  5. How to further promote your research post publication

A summary of all the topics we have discussed to date can be found at the BiotecVisions Getting Published archive. Stay tuned as we bring you all you need to know to effectively communicate your scientific results to the reviewer and to the reader; how to present your data and convince your peers that your research is the most important; and how to more efficiently spread the good news once your paper is published.

And of course, if there is a particular topic that you would like more information on or questions that you may have, write to us at

Understanding RCUK’s Open Access Policies

Open AccessThe new open access publishing policy from Research Councils UK (RCUK) has left a lot of researchers–and publishers–scrambling. In a nutshell, any peer-reviewed research that receives funding from the Research Council must now be published in journals that are compliant with the RCUK Policy on Open Access. The policy aims to make it easier for UK institutions and researchers to publish in open access journals using the gold model.

A wonderful animated video is available on the Wiley Open Access Blog, explaining how RCUK – funded authors can learn how to comply when publishing with Wiley’s OnlineOpen program.