Science Writing Unit

We help investigators expand their publication records, maximize their funding success rates, and communicate clearly with their research communities.



Every OSCTR pilot investigator is eligible for one-on-one writing assistance for manuscripts and grants related to their pilot project. The level of assistance is tailored for the needs of each investigator and project. Some investigators might want help with the structure and flow of their writing to build a compelling argument, while others might want only basic proofreading.  This service may be available for other investigators as resources allow.


On-site workshops teach investigators how to develop their scientific story and present it effectively. Recent workshops have included a Nature Masterclass on high-impact publishing led by two editors of Nature journals, an interactive workshop on designing posters, and more. We encourage investigators to bring relevant examples to discuss and improve for their current projects. Workshops can be scheduled at any of the OSCTR partner institutions.


Web-based resources provide guidance on specific skills and needs

  • Tutorials and fact sheets
  • Templates and boilerplate text
  • Checklists


Writing clubs help investigators hone their writing skills while preparing a manuscript or grant application.


Individual consultations are available to answer questions or, on a limited basis, to help with outlining, drafting, or proofreading. Our staff have experience with creating posters, slide sets, and outreach materials; developing and submitting manuscripts and grant proposals; and writing materials for a general audience.


OSCTR partners are eligible for proposal development and grant writing assistance to help institutions produce competitive proposals for collaborative, center, and infrastructure grants that support the OSCTR mission.


In addition to the activities above, the Science Writing Unit supports public relations and internal communication for the OSCTR community. Please contact us for more information or to discuss your upcoming project.   


How to Work with the SWU

Contact the SWU before beginning to write. The SWU is here to help investigators learn the process of scientific writing, and that is only possible if we are brought into the project early. In general, investigators can expect to spend at least 2-4 months developing a manuscript and 3-6 months developing a grant proposal.


The SWU can help investigators present their story in a compelling, clear, and accurate way, but investigators are ultimately responsible for the content.


The SWU will help investigators establish a timeline for completing and submitting their manuscript or grant proposal. Projects that do not follow the timeline may be moved to a lower priority in the SWU workflow.


Please follow up with the SWU when you receive feedback from reviewers, and let us know the outcome of your submission. 


Acknowledge SWU support, especially for manuscripts. The SWU is funded by grants and generous investments from partner institutions. Proper acknowledgement demonstrates the impact of this service, and this is crucial for ongoing funding. Access to the SWU may by restricted for investigators who habitually fail to acknowledge SWU support. There are three steps to acknowledging SWU support in a manuscript:

  1. Name the OSCTR Science Writing Unit in the Acknowledgments.  For example, “Rebecka Bourn, PhD provided editorial assistance through the Science Writing Unit of the Oklahoma Shared Clinical and Translational Resources (U54GM104938).  The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.”
  2. Let us know about your upcoming publication or presentation.
  3. Link OSCTR funding (U54GM104938, PI James) to your manuscript in the NIHMS system.  For assistance with this step, please contact your institutional librarian, or the OSCTR.



Rebecka Bourn, PhD is the Director of the Science Writing Unit. Dr. Bourn has 9 years of experience in scientific and medical writing, including 4 as a consultant specializing in R01, training, and program grant applications. Her scientific background is in the molecular biology and translational research of multifactorial diseases, and she has received additional training on writing for patient outreach and medical education.