Do not abuse medical writers

This winter I learned that Asian and East European universities are keen to hire medical writers to “edit” medical journal manuscripts and presentations, which often means a complete rewrite, preparation of tables and figures and literature search by the medical writer. The clients then pretend that no medical writing professional touched any part of the submitted manuscript or grant proposal. And pay them less that they would get cleaning floors at McDonald’s.

I am very much concerned about the well-being of medical writers. We mostly work alone, so we are open to exploitation and abuse from publishers, from clients, from family, from governments. And we are happy to work with scientists and healthcare professionals of their manuscripts, these clients should not be shamed for asking professionals for help, and the medical writers should not be abused by demands that are absurd.

When offered a contract:
– work out how many hours you will take to edit grammar, fix the logic, prepare tables and figures, research literature and make revisions once after submitting what you have done to the client
– ask yourself if you will be paid more cleaning the floors at McDonald’s?

If the answer to the question is yes, go find a job at McDonald’s. You will exercise more, be around folks, and you will be paid for every hour you work, certainly where I live in New Jersey.

If the answer is no, bill the client one-third before you start, one-third on submitting the first draft, one-third on submitting the final draft.

Be vigilant. If the Medical Writing Institute certifies you, you are probably smarter than everyone you know and you understand preclinical and clinical science and how to analyze and present data. Treat a contract like data: what does the client want, can I give that to them for a price that is not abusive to me?

Do not let a client devalue you. Or a friend. Or a relative. Or a spouse. Or a country.

Do not abuse medical writers. SJ Dodgson MJoTA 2017 v11n1p0414

To contact the director, Dr Dodgson,