I've edited, restructured, written and proofread my way across formats from news to reviews —
and in sectors from journalism to the international civil service. While I'm particularly interested
in environmental issues and the nexus of science and culture,
I am happy tackling a range of topics. In 2020, following nearly
10 years as a commissioning editor at the science journal Nature,
I relaunched as a freelancer.
Context is all. I’ve honed my skills in many: science journalism, book publishing, UN agencies, government departments, non-profits. As a result, I understand the needs of diverse readerships and organizations, whether through features, websites, reports, reviews, essays, books or blogs.
As with format, so with topic. I’m comfortable with copy on the Green New Deal, tactile learning in early education, eco-sanitation, sociogenomics, the circular economy, climate policy, AI ethics, and the historical nexus of art and engineering. Whatever the subject, I get to the heart of the story that needs telling.
I've been tugging at the narrative thread for decades, starting with a literature degree from Vassar and studies at George Washington University. In my twenties, I launched professionally at the UN agency FAO in Rome. Working on global projects such as the World Food Survey, I found myself at a sustainability frontline. I became galvanized by thinking on the entanglement of environment and human behaviour, and pursued it at the IMO, British government departments, SciDev.Net, New Scientist, Gaia Books and the policy-research powerhouse IIED. As that institute's first staff writer, I transformed output, writing acclaimed annual reports and policy briefs. I also blogged climate summits, created book series Big Ideas in Development, led the editorial development of the website Alternative Routes to Urban Density, and mentored researchers in writing skills.
Over a decade as Nature's commissioning editor for books and arts, I handled some 1,000 reviews. I collaborated with prominent science writers such as David Dobbs, Sharon Weinberger and Philip Ball, and expert authors from Jane Lubchenco and Michael E. Mann to Joe Letteri, visual-effects director for Lord of the Rings. Meanwhile, I was writing the popular weekly column Books in Brief — reading some 2,000 books in the process — and running the science-and-culture blog A View from the Bridge (shortlisted by ABSW for its 2016 awards). I recorded books-related podcasts and compiled archival collections on H.G. Wells and Lewis Carroll.
Whether your copy needs a light touch or full-on developmental editing, I offer expert assessment and deliver polished text on time. I ensure that the to and fro of editorial collaboration is smooth and straightforward.
I am practised in retaining authorial voice while crafting text with flow, rhythm and verve to communicate meaning clearly and compellingly. Accuracy is paramount:
I will fact-check where needed.
Beyond these basics, my decades of work in international policy and science journalism — and lengthy immersion in the best of non-fiction books — have given me a nuanced understanding of global issues such as climate change, epidemiology,
the food system and the realities of refugees' experience. I am informed on psychology, and grounded in literature and art history, along with their scientific borderlands.
Among the multitude of pieces and projects I have edited over my career, a sampling of recent Nature reviews and
IIED documents are ranged opposite.
Colin Anderson et al.
Agroecology Now! Transformations towards More
Just and Sustainable Food Systems (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020)
Michael E. Mann
The debated legacy of Einstein's first wife (2019)
Kim Stanley Robinson et al.
The sea-otter whisperer (2016)
Beyond the “InterNyet” (2016)
Under the skin (2014)
Barb Kiser’s work at Nature — her excellent taste in selecting books for review, her sound judgment in pairing reviewer with book, and her keen eye for the right wording down at the sentence level — has been important not just for me as a writer but for my whole field. She can help make humanistic work intelligible to scientists, and vice versa: vital skills these days, and not especially widely distributed. She is one person who has it, and can help you bring it out in yourself.
Rosengarten Professor of Modern and Contemporary History,
Princeton University, and author, most recently,
of Einstein in Bohemia
I had the pleasure of working with Barbara on multiple occasions. She had an amazing ability to smooth away the rough edges on my essays, turning them into a final product with precision and panache. As both a scientist and a science communicator, I place great value on public outreach. In this era of rampant misinformation and disinformation, it is more important than ever that science communicators find a way to speak with both clarity and conviction.
Barbara helps us do that.
Michael E. Mann
Distinguished Professor and Director of the Earth System Science Center, Penn State University,
co-founder of www.realclimate.org, and author of The Madhouse Effect and forthcoming How to Win the New Climate War
Looking back over the dozens of drafts I’ve sent Barb over the years, I see that the first words of mine that she read professionally were, “It’s a truism that…” She struck them — an auspicious start. She went on to shorten my drops, disinter
my leads, untangle my metaphors, find footings for my participles, swiften my kickers and make bonfires of my vanities. She is old-school in the best way: she provides a level of personalized attention that is rare in publishing nowadays.
Working with Barb continues to teach me much about the writer’s craft and —
such is that craft — ultimately about myself.
Professor, Department of the History of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University,
currently working on a biography of James D. Watson
Barbara is a brilliant editor who I was lucky to have worked with and who, from my perspective, inspiringly enlarged the scope of what a Nature reader might encounter in terms of literature and the arts.
Fellow, Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge,
and author of books including Mountains of the Mind, The Old Ways
Barbara is just the right sort of exacting you want from an editor. A commission would begin with a stimulating discussion about the wider scope and context of the piece, and would proceed to meticulous and collaborative close editing and checking, always informed by her deep knowledge of books, science and politics.
and author of Not on the Label and Eat Your Heart Out
What writers really want from an editor is someone who will make them sound better, without losing their own voice: “Oh yes, of course I should have said it that way!” This takes real skill and sensitivity, and doesn’t often happen. But in the years that I’ve worked with Barb, it is what I knew I could rely on her to provide.
It’s a privilege to receive editing like hers.
Author of Beyond Weird, Invisible, The Water Kingdom and others
A great editor knows when to trust writers to take editorial remarks in a
positive spirit, whether they be suggestions, instructions, recommendations,
tips, critiques, or vetos. I got them all from you, Barb. Without them, my reviews would have suffered.
Professor, Department of Philosophy, Stony Brook University,
and author, most recently, of The Workshop and the World
As an editor, Barbara turns drafts into structured, precise, polished arguments. I found that throughout the process, she was both empathetic and rigorous, and deeply, broadly knowledgeable.
Science writer, author of The Jasons
and co-proprietor of the blog The Last Word on Nothing
Barbara made a huge difference at IIED. As staff writer she took a great interest in
the full range of research topics and brought rigour and colour to our writing. She produced and edited immense volumes of great material — from annual reports
to briefing papers, popular books and blog entries. She is passionate, dedicated,
talented and extremely professional.
Independent researcher and consultant on energy, extractive industries,
climate and sustainability
I've written articles, essays, reviews, reports, blog posts and a popular practical conservation manual, Trees and Aftercare (1991, 1996).
As a journalist, I wrote nearly 400 Books in Brief columns and a number of reviews and essays for Nature, among pieces for many other employers and clients. Opposite are some favourites.
I know books. Aside from reviewing and commissioning reviews, I chose Five Book's top science books for 2018 and 2019. (After reading the latter, science writer David Dobbs told me that I "have a wonderful book mind".)
I'm keen to review nature writing and non-fiction touching on sustainability-related issues, popular psychology and the nexus of science and the arts. But I'm open to much else.
Wall Street Journal (2020)
Los Angeles Review of Books (2020)
Double Shift: schooling Syria’s child refugees
The art of engineering
Suspended animation: Calder’s sculptural revolution
Body of knowledge
Hunger games: food security on stage and screen
Science guns the engine
Hue and eye
New Scientist (2003)
A blast of fresh air: the history of O2
Ecodesign network O2 (2000)