Board of Editors in the Life Sciences

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The Board of Editors in the Life Sciences (BELS) is a professional organization that awards credentials to exemplary manuscript editors in the life sciences (e.g., medicine, biology, agriculture).[1][2][3][4] Here, the term "manuscript editor" refers to both authors' editors and editors employed by academic publishers (often called copy editors or editor-in-chief). Individuals who demonstrate excellence in editing and an understanding of the ethical principles of publishing—both of which are assessed through a certification exam—are awarded the title Editor in the Life Sciences and may use the initials ELS after their names.[2][3][5][6]

BELS was founded in 1991[1] and offers certification examinations several times each year at various locations across the United States and in other countries.[6] Once certified, BELS members can access other members' contact information, job openings, and links to similar editorial associations through the BELS Web site.[7] All organizational functions of BELS are performed by volunteers among its members.[8]

Credentials offered[edit]

Editor in the Life Sciences[edit]

Those wishing to attain the BELS certification (ELS) credential are required to pass a certification examination.[8] To be eligible to sit for the exam, applicants must have earned a bachelor's degree (or equivalent) and must have at least 2 years of experience as a manuscript editor in the life sciences.[6][9] The registration for the certification exam requires the submission of a resume, an application fee, and three letters of reference from professionals who can attest to the candidate's experience as manuscript editor.[4] Most registrants hold degrees in physical or life sciences, English, or journalism.[1] The 3-hour exam consists of about 100 multiple-choice questions.[1][6][8][10] BELS issues a study guide to prepare for the exam.

Diplomate Editor in the Life Sciences[edit]

ELS-certified editors may apply for diplomate status, ELS(D), by submitting a portfolio of edited material and documenting at least 6 years of experience as a manuscript editor in the life sciences.[6] A person whose portfolio passes detailed review and evaluation is deemed a Diplomate Editor in the Life Sciences, ELS(D).[1][8]

Honored Editor in the Life Sciences[edit]

BELS grants the title of Honored Editor in the Life Sciences, ELS(H), to distinguished editors of its choosing. Those with this status may use the credential ELS(H).[1]


The concept of BELS was formulated in the early 1980s, and the organization was founded on January 23, 1991, in Maryland.[6][8][9][11] Charter members were Martha Brookes, Gillian Brown, Gil Croome, Susan Eastwood, Norman Grossblatt, Carol Kakalec Kohn, Walter Pagel, Frances Porcher, Barbara Reitt, and Martha Tacker.[8]

The first BELS exam was held on May 4, 1991, in Denver, CO. Twenty-three candidates attempted certification and 14 passed the exam.[6][8] In 1992, BELS hosted its first annual meeting in Pittsburgh, PA, which a majority of the membership attended.[8]

The first BELS exam conducted in Australia was held in 2001; 3 of 5 candidates passed.[9] By 2005, the BELS membership included 13 Australians.[9] In November 2008, BELS offered two exams in India. All applicants held degrees in science, and about two-thirds passed the exam, a pass rate similar to that in the U.S. at the time.[12]

BELS initiated a newsletter, the BELS Newsletter (later known simply as the BELS Letter), in the spring of 1993, distributing it to members and related organizations.[8]

Membership growth[edit]

A total of 33 editors were certified in the life sciences in 1991, the first year in which the organization offered the exam.[8] By April 2001, BELS had more than 300 members, and a total of 51 scheduled exams had been held.[8] By July 2006, BELS membership had reached 550,[9] and by 2007, the number of editors holding the ELS credential had increased to almost 700.[1] As of 2011, about 1,000 BELS-certified editors can be found worldwide.[11][13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Berman, S.K., & Aiello, S. (2007). Professional organization profile: Board of Editors in the Life Sciences (BELS). AMWA Journal, 22(4), 192-193.
  2. ^ a b International Academy of Nursing Editors (INANE). (2011). Professional organizations: Board of Editors in the Life Sciences (BELS). Retrieved from "Archived copy". Archived from the original on December 23, 2011. Retrieved 2011-10-05. 
  3. ^ a b Moore, M. (2006). Teaming up with a medical writer: Tips for finding well-qualified candidates. Retrieved from "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on September 15, 2011. Retrieved 2011-10-05. 
  4. ^ a b Salisbury, J. (2005). Board of Editors in the Life Sciences (BELS): First notice of BELS exam to be held in Melbourne in October 2005. The Fine Print, 1, x-xi.
  5. ^ Day, R.A., & Gastel, B. (2006). How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper (6th ed.). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Phillips, K.F. (1993). The BELS program: Certification for manuscript editors in the life sciences. AMWA Journal, 8(2), 56-58.
  7. ^ Wang, L. (2001). Net results: Help by association. Science Editor, 24(1), 12-13.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Grossblatt, N., & Reitt, B.B. (2001). BELS: The first 10 years. Science Editor, 24(20), 39-42.
  9. ^ a b c d e Pike, R. (2005). On becoming a certified editor. The Fine Print, 2, 26-28.
  10. ^ Pownall, M. (2008). Member musings: Out of focus. AMWA Journal, 23(3), 151.
  11. ^ a b TC Library. (2011). Board of Editors in the Life Sciences. Retrieved from
  12. ^ Appiah, B. (2009). Science editing at an Indian firm: Perspectives of two U.S. visitors. Science Editor, 32(4), 118-119.
  13. ^ Melcher, T.M. (2011). The Board of Editors in the Life Sciences Certification: An interview with BELS president Susan E. Aiello. Science Editor, 34(4), e13. Retrieved from[permanent dead link]

External links[edit]