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TRIUMF 5-Year Plan Wins National Editing Award

08 June 2009

Vancouver editor Melva McLean has been honoured by the Editors' Association of Canada/Association canadienne des réviseurs for her pivotal role in producing an 850-page report for TRIUMF, Canada's national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics.  The job took nine months to complete and involved 50 contributing writers.  

From a short list of four candidates, McLean was chosen to receive the 2008 Tom Fairley Award for Editorial Excellence for her contribution to Five-Year Plan 2010-2015: Building a Vision for the Future (published by TRIUMF).  McLean accepted the $2,000 award at the association's annual banquet, held June 6 in Toronto. 

The schedule to complete the project was intense, driven by a deadline to have the book complete before a major international review of the laboratory in September 2008.  The visiting committee included prestigious international scientists and businessman; it was chaired by Rolf-Dieter Heuer, Director General of CERN, the world's largest scientific laboratory.  Writing about the Five-Year Plan, Heuer said, "Although covering the next five years in detail, it [the report] goes far beyond this time scale: it presents a strategic vision for the future of the laboratory, a vision in which Canada should invest.  The Plan is transformational."

Other international groups offered their praise as well.  "In its Five-Year Plan report, the TRIUMF laboratory presents its plan for the reinvention of a remarkable Canadian physics laboratory in the context of the challenges and opportunities of 21st-century science," said Judy Jackson, Director of Communications at Fermilab, the major U.S. laboratory for particle physics.  She added, "The Plan describes a vision for TRIUMF's future of global scientific leadership in clear and compelling terms; it sets a new standard for such scientific roadmaps.  What a delight for it to be recognized for style as well as substance!"

Like so many of her colleagues in the editing profession, McLean gives other people much of the credit for the success of this huge project. "I had four assistant editors with scientific backgrounds and three proofreaders to help me," she said. "And the person in charge of creating more than 200 graphics and figures at TRIUMF never once sent me the wrong file." McLean also notes the strong and ongoing support she received from her co-editor, Timothy Meyer, head of strategic planning and communications at TRIUMF.  Congratulating McLean about the award, Meyer said, "Although the substance of the TRIUMF report was conceived of and written by Canadian researchers, it was a real treat to see it take form and style in Melva's expert hands.  And for an 850-page report on science to win this award really says something about her skills!"

In the end, though, McLean's knowledge of and experience with the publishing process was a critical factor. She made some crucially important decisions as the project evolved, for example, choosing a designer that she knew had the ability to maintain excellent version control. "With 50 contributors, I knew this would be important," McLean said.  McLean was also instrumental in bringing the manuscript through to publication; the book was designed by Rayola Graphics and Design in Victoria.  She said, "Rayola was the final piece in the puzzle of getting this job done.  They were a highly skilled, reliable team and they were able to read our minds."

"It is safe to say," noted Victoria Neufeldt, one of the three judges for the award, "that there aren't very many editors who could handle such a large, complex and specialized project." Fellow judge Patricia Buchanan agreed, noting McLean's diplomacy, patience, and firmness.

McLean remains lighthearted about her significant achievement. "I have just started doing weight training," she said, "and the book weighs about ten pounds. I can use it when I do my workouts."

From Manitoba originally, McLean has been a freelance editor throughout most of her editng career, which began in the early 1990s. TRIUMF is a regular client, and she has also edited several books about food and wine.

For more information, please see the Editors' Association of Canada webpage.


--By T.I. Meyer, Head, Strategic Planning and Communications (based on a TRIUMF press release)