Comparison of tech writers and science editors

Subject: Comparison of tech writers and science editors
From: "Karen Graber" <graber -at- iodp -dot- tamu -dot- edu>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 02 Feb 2004 15:48:03 -0600

My department wants to hire technical writers to write some manuals on
tools and labs. We have a Publications department that has focused it's
time and energy on science editing of the Initial Reports and Scientific
Results from each cruise. They do a fine job and are very proficient.
However, my boss understands that there is a big difference between a
technical writer and a science editor but we're having a hard time
getting this point across to the previous Manager of Publications who is
now a Deputy Director. She says Publications can do the manuals. I think
they probably can but I think it is going to take time to acquire the
skills. We want to use structured writing and framemaker to work toward
a single sourcing process. We want a document strategy in place that we
can use to transition from ODP to IODP and keep our documents up to date
over the life of the new program. Our publications people have
framemaker experience but not structured writing and not interviewing
experience. They do not often write copy. They take something a
scientist has written and make sure it is correct English and flag any
problems they see.

Does anyone have any thoughts/input on what the differences are between
a tech writer and a science editor that will make this clearer to the
Deputy Director?

I know this is difficult without knowing the skill sets of the editors
(one has taught tech writing at the University I work at and one has
worked as a tech writer for awhile) but I don't have specifics. I don't
know what topics are taught in the tech writer classes here (one I
attended at LSU wasn't too impressive but this is a different
University). I find it hard to believe that a really good tech writer
would come to work here given the low salaries they pay the editors but
it's certainly possible. I also realize that there is a wide spectrum of
jobs that tech writers do and just because someone is a tech writer
doesn't mean they have the best skill set to do what we want for this

Any suggestions/thoughts would be much appreciated.

graber -at- odpemail -dot- tamu -dot- edu


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