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Science writing jobs in India are opening up and can be highly creative and challenging. Here is a primer on how to start a career in scientific writing.
Every now and then I get queries from wannabe Science writers about how and where to start a career in the field of Science writing. Most of the queries come from final year Ph.D students or post-doctoral researchers who are wary of the repetitive experimental work and worried about the insecurity of their work. They search for suitable opportunities where they can share their scientific knowledge with others.
Science writing is a broad field and many opportunities exist in this field. Here is a primer for you on the many kinds of science writing jobs and how to start your career in scientific writing.
Science writers are involved in the presentation and publication of discoveries and commercial developments in the field of Science, Technology, Engineering and Medicine (STEM) in the form of reports, articles, manuals, books, posters, websites, brochures etc.
As a science writer you can get involved in writing for various audiences including health care authorities (for e.g. FDA, EMEA), the science fraternity, a general audience (customers, patients) or students.
Before starting your quest to become a science writer, it is important to understand if you have a knack for evidence based writing. Some questions to ask yourself are:
Writing is often looked upon as a lonely job, but for any type of writing including the writing about science, good communication skills are very important to reach out to prospective employers both as a full time worker, or a freelancer.
Your career in Science writing could revolve around any or a few of these.
Medical Writing: Medical writing is a comparatively new profession. Medical writers are specialized professionals who write documents required for different phases of clinical trials, launch and post marketing of medicines in their different forms like pharmaceuticals, biologics and medical devices. They also write for different audiences like health care authorities, the medical fraternity and a general audience. In India, many pharmaceutical companies and KPOs provide jobs to medical writers. They need to work in tandem with statisticians, medics, regulatory experts etc.
Regulatory Writing: Regulatory writing specifically involves writing for specific health authorities e.g., FDA or EMEA. It requires knowledge of healthcare related regulations for different markets and a thorough knowledge of the different processes involved in the creation of a document. Understanding of the mechanism of action of the drug, its history on safety and efficacy are important aspects to do well in regulatory writing.
Regulatory writing is deadline oriented as per the regulatory authorities. Analyzing and writing about the safety of the drug from its trial phase to even after it is marketed is called pharmacovigilance and is a major domain in regulatory writing.
Medical Communication: Medical communication involves the creation of manuscripts, literature review, slide kits for conferences and posters, brochures, patient information leaflets etc. This writing is done mostly for the medical fraternity and sometimes for a general audience. You may be asked to put together a plan for a new drug getting launched in the market with all the abstracts, manuscripts, conference presentations, road shows to be made before the launch.
Patent writing: An intellectual property right granted by the Government of a country to an inventor is called a patent. This is to stop others from making, using or selling the same thing. As per the United States patents and trademarks office there are 3 types of patents, utility patents, design patents, and plant patents.
In recent years, the advance of small businesses in the field of healthcare, biotechnology and other sciences has created a demand for specialized people who can support them in protecting their intellectual property rights. In order to become a certified patent agent you need to pass the exam conducted by that country. You may also go into the field of patent landscaping where research is required to understand the need and scope for the patent of interest.
Grant and proposal Writing: Proposals are first requirements to ask for grants from government or non- government funding agencies. Also, the more entrepreneurship India sees, there will be a greater requirement for people who are capable of attracting money through proofs of concept or proposals written by them.
Writing for funding requires a good understanding of science and business as well as budgeting. Science graduates with a good understanding of budgeting can find success in this field. Often, research institutes have a dedicated team to review the different grant proposals written by the scientists to continue with their research work. In India, this field is still in a nascent stage.
Technical Writing: This includes drafting technical communications for various domains like computer hardware and software, engineering, chemistry, aeronautics, robotics, finance, consumer electronics, and biotechnology, medical devices etc. The documents could be manuals, press releases, technical reports etc. A technical writer would need to be pro in desktop publishing tools and word processors, image editing and graphic software. In India, the Technical Writers of India (TWIN) is well-known and could be a go-to place for beginners in technical writing.
Science Editing: Each year, the number of scientific journals which publish on scientific innovations and reviews of different topics is increasing. Scientific editing was an allied profession to science writing but has now become a full fledged profession. Indians have an edge here as people from non-English speaking countries want to get professional help in English editing and several companies in India are providing that service, in turn opening up several positions in science editing.
Science writing is an upcoming field in India. For medical and technical writing, India has already proven itself as a preferred outsourcing destination owing to the English language advantage and the availability of a large number of science, engineering, and medicine graduates.
With the rising number of new pharmaceutical and engineering businesses originating in India, domains like patent writing and competitive intelligence are going to be job generating areas. In other parts of the world, jobs in Science writing have proven especially popular with women owing to the flexible nature of the work. It is time that scientific minded women in India look into this as one of the options for their career growth.
Writing science concept image via Shutterstock
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