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A scientific editor is a person who edits papers, presentations, articles, and essays written by scientists. For example, an astronomer looking to publish a paper about the sun may ask a scientific editor to help her make sure that the paper is in good shape before submitting it to scientific journals or other similar publications. The reason for this is, although the astronomer might be a gifted scientist, she might not be as talented when it comes to crafting a paper. The scientific editor would take the paper, or the basic framework of the material to be presented in the paper, and form it into a well-written document that is up to standards set forth in the community.
In addition to being skilled writers and editors, it is also important for people working with scientific texts to have a background in science. Considering again the example above, the scientific editor working on the paper about the sun should have a working knowledge about astronomy, which will help her to make sure that the information that is being presented in the paper is being set forth in a clear manner. Although an editor certainly does not need to be as well-versed as the researcher, a strong foundation of knowledge about the kind of science being presented in a paper is quite important.
Because of the importance of this kind of knowledge, it is common for a scientific editor to mainly work on projects in one branch of science. A scientific editor might, for example, work primarily with texts that have to do with marine biology, medicine, or botany. One common kind of scientific writing is medical writing because so much research every year goes into the field of medicine. This research must be synthesized into reports and presentations, where medical writers come in to play.
In some cases a scientific editor will actually do the bulk of the work when it comes to writing a paper or article. Working with the researcher, the scientific editor will help to organize the research, findings, and any additional information into a cohesive form. This sort of scientific ghost writing is especially common in the medical community, where writers will sometimes completely ghost write papers and articles for professionals in the field. For example, a medical writer might be asked to attend a conference on behalf of a doctor and write an article or report on the material presented at the conference.