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Client showcase: Shelly DeForte, biomathematician

640px-1a5r_sumo-1_proteinAs a full-service science communications agency staffed with editors, designers, writers and more, Talk Science to Me takes great pride in supporting all our clients by presenting their science in effective and engaging ways. Although most of our portfolio comprises larger organizations and institutions, we also work with individual authors and researchers to manage their writing and publishing needs.

One of our academic authors is biomathematician Shelly DeForte, who recently took up a post-doctoral position in bioinformatics at the University of Montreal. She describes her position as fully involved in supporting the research projects of a biochemistry lab by “writing custom code to do custom analysis” on the data.

Shelly’s work focuses on artificial intelligence, machine learning and in silico modelling, writing code that runs algorithms to analyze the libraries of data generated by experimental workflows. Her field of interest is intrinsically disordered proteins, looking for evidence of a lack of stable structure among proteome structure and sequence databases. Since structure heavily influences function, intrinsic disorder could signal a highly versatile protein; making predictive sense of how these molecules might behave or bind with other factors is important in drug discovery, for example.

Talk Science provided editing for two of Shelly’s primary research papers, a service she describes as extremely valuable. This included editing, copy-editing, proofreading and some fact-checking, ultimately delivering a final manuscript that was ready for journal submission.

So how does this kind of support help an academic biomathematician?

In the academic world, researchers are under constant pressure to publish their findings, submitting them to peer-reviewed journals, conferences and other venues. Publication enhances reputation for the academic institution as well as the scientist. Often the data come from collaborative research projects, meaning that writing a primary paper involves many authors in the draft and revision processes. Eventually, with all the changes and additions, it becomes difficult to spot grammatical errors, inconsistencies and typos.

“After all the revision and editing you and your authors do, it’s impossible not to become blind to the paper,” Shelly explained. “Also, when you’re familiar with a subject, it’s not always easy to see when something lacks clarity for the reader.”

Hiring an external editor can also help get a paper published. Since reviewers seem to prefer highly polished papers, submitting a manuscript that requires very little work prior to publishing increases the odds of acceptance. Furthermore, as journals economize, providing less editorial support and prepress oversight for submissions, errors can make it all the way into print. Shelly suggests that it is a good idea to avoid submitting them in the first place: working with a Talk Science editor to oversee final document revisions will prevent the risk of their immortalization!

Bioinformatics is rapidly becoming more important to scientific research as researchers struggle to make sense of complex data outputs. Biological systems under investigation are much more complicated than computers can deal with without specific programs to handle the multidimensional information downloads for analysis. Biomathematicians like Shelly are becoming increasingly involved in experimental design to ensure that data submission is in the correct format. When handled correctly, computational support in the form of algorithms, artificial intelligence and machine learning save time, sparing scientists from traditional manual analysis to speed up results.

In providing manuscript editing and submission services, Talk Science hopes to help share Shelly’s science effectively as well as free up valuable research time to pursue new directions in protein bioinformatics.

Learn more about our Talk Science clients in our client showcases.

Learn more about intrinsically disordered proteins in this useful review:
DeForte, S., & Uversky, V.N. (2016). “Order, disorder, and everything in between,” Molecules, 21(8), 1090, doi: 10.3390/molecules21081090.

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