Writing Dentistry in Tehran

by Enid RosenstielEnid R

Editor’s note: As sanctions are lifted and Iran forms more ties with Western countries, medical and scientific editors will have opportunities to work with Iranian scholars who are trying to publish in international journals. Elsevier published guidance it had received from the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) on sanctions laws and publishing.

My husband is an author of a popular dental textbook now in its fifth edition and translated into ten languages, most recently Farsi. Now that he and I are both retired, we have put our efforts into a peer-reviewed journal, he as editor-in-chief and I as a freelance copy editor. I taught English to international students at The Ohio State University for many years.

When he was invited to speak in Tehran, we hesitated, but on the advice of Iranian-American friends, we decided to accept this particular invitation; we had declined a previous invitation. And so we traveled to Iran for the 56th EXCIDA (Exhibition & Congress of Iranian Dental Association) in conjunction with the 1st FDI World Dental Federation Persian Regional and the 34th ICOI (International Congress of Oral Implantologists) World Congress, Tehran May 17–20, 2016.

Doubts

With the conference just three weeks away, I was anxious, both about traveling to Iran and about whether my presentation would merit the rather costly air fare. My husband kept telling me yes, but he’s the one with the international reputation. Indeed, his book had already been translated and published in Farsi without permission.

Obviously, I needed to get the correct clothes, but what? I posted the question in the Facebook group Editors’ Association of Earth, and Corrigo’s editor helped me and asked me to contribute this piece.

My husband and I have given presentations around the world, and we have adapted to meet the needs of those in Mexico, Egypt, and now Iran. My first contact with Iranian students was during my student days in Paris (1971) as they protested the Shah in the Maison d’Iran, and the last was in Florida in 1979 before the Iranian Revolution. With the hostage crisis, almost overnight, those students withdrew. With this in mind, I sought advice from International Affairs at The Ohio State University, but they seemed uninterested. Was I mad to take up this invitation?

Strangely enough, and quite coincidentally, I received a request from an author in Shiraz, Iran, to help write a dental text. I did help with some multiple choice questions, but we never did meet. Still, it was reassuring that someone was reaching out.

Only shortly before traveling did we realize that Iran does not do transactions with credit cards. We hurriedly got dollars and planned to get some euros during our layover in Frankfort.

The presentation and PowerPoint slides were taking shape, but the final presentation was yet to be decided in light of the time allocated and the number of participants. I didn’t want to put the audience to sleep!

Arrival

We finally made it. In Tehran we were met by VIP service and escorted to a lounge in the airport. Our passports were taken for inspection while we took tea and food. Time to put on the headscarf! By the time we reached the hotel it was 4 a.m. on Monday, May 16.

At this point, I should tell you of my most memorable experience on our first evening. Invited to an Iranian home for dinner, I arrived appropriately dressed, that is, with a headscarf. The door to the courtyard opened and closed. Our hostess told me to get that thing off my head and thrust a glass of French champagne (the good stuff) in my hand. We spent the evening speaking French because the French wife of one of the delegates had no English. Not at all what I expected but not too unusual, I gather.

I talked with Sareh, a young assistant professor, about my upcoming presentation. She told me that there was much interest in it, as young faculty need to publish to be promoted; money and grants are available. They feel cut off from the world in terms of editing and much more. The textbooks and lectures are often in English, and the students have a good level of English.

The Conference

In addition to his dental presentations, my husband offered to give our joint presentation on submitting to a peer-reviewed journal. We had given this presentation in Spain, Mexico, China, The Ohio State University, and elsewhere. The offer was taken up immediately, and for two hours we spoke to a large audience in Tehran.

Our presentation was in two parts, his and mine.

The editor-in-chief covered these points:

  1. Selecting the right journal
  2. Reading and following the author guidelines
  3. Citing references
  4. Avoiding plagiarism
  5. Understanding the editor’s dilemma, that is whether to reject a paper because of the English or to battle through and try to claim the science
  6. Understanding the peer review process, that is that reviewers are human and usually trying to help. They give their time freely, and it is they who have problems with non-native English.
  7. Responding to reviews

The language editor covered these points:

  1. Who sees your article?
  2. What are readers looking for?
  3. How can you work with a copy editor?
  4. How can you make your English more accessible? Examples presented.
  5. Where can you learn more? Useful reading and contact information provided by the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA), Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA), and Council of Science Editors (CSE).

Obviously, none of the above was particularly new to us, but the audience had questions about cut and paste, referencing, and scientific writing courses. What was new for us was the opportunity to connect directly with the Iranians. Unfortunately, even two hours was not enough, and we were invited back, an offer we will gladly take up. The PowerPoint slides were made available to anyone who wanted them.

Impressions

On Thursday evening we left for an unexpected trip to Isfahan. In the airport, we met up with one of the conference participants by accident and then with a relative of hers who was professor of French literature at the university in Isfahan … more French! She told me of her students’ isolation — both mental and physical —  and how she is now engaged with the French and Germans to arrange some exchanges, not only for language students but also for physics and chemistry students, whose labs are ill-equipped because of sanctions.

Our guide in Isfahan had never been able to study in an English-speaking country, but his English was excellent. We visited the high spots and did a little shopping. Often people would ask where we were from. “The US,” we said. “Welcome.” “Can we have a photo together?” “Americans are like diamonds here.” “We’re so pleased you’re back!”

Aesthetics in dentistry is important in Iran. And plastic surgery is on the rise — nose jobs are evident as you walk around.

Women’s fashion in the streets meets the requirements to cover, but only just in some cases —  tight jeans, couture tops, fancy shoes, and scarves barely on the head. The chadhoor is not obligatory as is the hijab (headscarf), but some still choose to wear it.

Iran has a very young population and changes are coming quickly. Hardliners are trying to stop the re-election of Hassan Rouhani next year. We met several Iranian-Americans and Iranian-Canadians who were finally visiting family. People seemed optimistic. Tehran is a perfectly fine city — clean, busy, good roads, lots of traffic, no apparent seamy areas — and we did some miles around the city! Mountains to the north of the city have good skiing. Anti-American graffiti is painted out — but not entirely!

Opportunity

For those of you who, like me, work with authors of academic articles, Iran is a market worth investigating. As of now, there are no credit card transactions, but universities know how to work around this, and, I am told, money is available. As I write, Iran is negotiating with French and German banks, and the situation will probably change in the near future. For the most part, the dental students we met study from an English language text, and some professors give all their lectures in English. Iranian universities are also in contact with the Europeans trying to arrange student exchanges. The country is very young, and those we met are highly educated and eager to publish in peer-reviewed English-language journals; their promotion depends on it.

If my limited experience is anything to go by, it would serve us all well to be in touch with Iranian academics. Most students (not faculty) have access to Facebook and to LinkedIn, so that might be a way of contacting them. I hesitate to say too much, however, because although things are changing fast, it is wise to be circumspect.

 

Enid Rosenstiel received an MA in Linguistics and ESL from the University of Florida and for 25 years taught international students of English at The Ohio State University. She currently edits dental and other articles for authors around the world. Enid also coaches those giving professional presentations at conferences and other scholarly events. She is a member of the American Medical Writers Association. You can contact her via www.rosentieleditingservices.