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by Angela Damis AE

Presentation by Rhonda Daniels AE and Phil Pope at the IPEd conference. 

I volunteered to report on this session on academic editing because that’s my own field, but I found it offered excellent professional development advice that extended beyond that specialty.

I’m sure conference delegates had that experience with plenty of other presentations — the half dozen I watched were all rich with information and inspiration for working editors. 

The presenters were Rhonda Daniels AE (EdNSW) and Phil Pope (EdANZ). Rhonda was familiar to me as she is active in IPEd she’s been a self-employed editor since 2014 and is a member of the Standing Committee on Academic Editing (SCAE). Phil joined SCAE this year, having been forced by the pandemic’s impact on his university to transition from a career as an academic writing teacher to freelance academic editor.        

Rhonda presented first, starting with an update on SCAE’s recent work. In 2019 the committee revised and published the IPEd Guidelines for Editing Research Theses. (Once I had caught up with these, I found them a confidence booster in negotiating with new clients.)

Last year SCAE published an article on the Australian Government’s academic cheating services legislation that was passed in September 2020. (The explanatory memorandum states editing is not an offence.) SCAE has been particularly busy this year, developing some immensely useful resources. They include a two-page sample thesis agreement (available in the members-only portal) and the ‘Indicative costs of academic editing’ resource (in the public ‘Editing research theses’ section of the IPEd website). Editors can use the costs to inform prospective clients of the going rates. 

From the perspective of EdANZ, Phil mentioned initiatives that tie in with SCAE’s Australian-focused work. Of particular interest is a proposed campaign to promote academic editing and IPEd guidance as part of IPEd’s strategic plan. I’m sure shy academic eds like myself will keep a watch on that roll-out. 

Getting onto COVID-19’s impact on academic editing for universities, Rhonda outlined the well-known negative impacts on this sector but I was heartened to hear that there are opportunities among other things, universities are in better financial shape than forecast. She showed real insight by describing ‘variable impacts and opportunities’ and mentioned that as an academic editor she was being kept busy by COVID-19-related editing. 

Rhonda was brilliant in focusing our minds on the business responses that academic editors need to take in adapting to new conditions:

(1) understand your own business and how it is affected

(2) understand the new environment and get informed about new opportunities

(3) take action through training, skills development and marketing

(4) prepare for the next disruption for example, by diversifying.   

Phil, at 16 months into a new career as a thesis editor, offered a different perspective. I was impressed at his thoughtfulness as he described the two approaches he’d considered in marketing his services: promote himself as a jack-of-all trades or as a focused, academic specialist? He has opted for the latter as the editor needs to have a full belief in their offering honesty, confidence and credibility are the way to go. 

Thanks to these two editors for such a clear-sighted, practical session. 

Angela Damis AE has worked in academic, business and general non-fiction editing for just over 20 years. She is a Sydney-based member of EdNSW and can be contacted at