Diplomate FAQ

Q: What is diplomate status?

The Board of Editors in the Life Sciences (BELS) awards diplomate status to board-certified editors who pass the diplomate examination. Achievement of diplomate status indicates that an editor has demonstrated exceptional editorial proficiency, reflecting greater mastery of editorial skills and knowledge than required for certification as an Editor in the Life Sciences (ELS).

Q: What are the benefits and obligations of diplomate status?

The editor who achieves diplomate status may use the initials ELS(D) after his or her name. This designation indicates a high level of knowledge and skill and pre-eminent professional standing. Like board certification, diplomate status entails the obligation to sustain the high professional standards of BELS.

Diplomate editors of BELS may choose to be supporting or nonsupporting members. Supporting certified and diplomate BELS members pay the same annual dues. Supporting membership, in addition to the privileges accorded to all supporting BELS members, makes the diplomate eligible to serve as an examiner in the diplomate program, as councilor for appeals, or on the Diplomate Examination Development Committee.  

All certified and diplomate members of BELS are members for life. Re-examination to maintain certified or diplomate status is not required.

Q: Who is eligible to take the diplomate examination?

A BELS-certified editor (ELS), whether supporting or nonsupporting, is eligible to apply for candidacy for diplomate status starting 2 years after passing the certification examination. An applicant must also document 6 years of experience as a manuscript editor in the life sciences or related fields. BELS, at its discretion, may grant exceptions to permit substitution of volunteer service or other unconventional experience for employment experience. Any candidate who wishes to ask for an exception under this provision must specify the details in a letter submitted with the application.

Candidacy for diplomate status lasts for only 2 years, beginning when the member's application is accepted. A candidate may renew his or her eligibility for another 2 years by submitting a fee of US$100.

Q: What does it cost to achieve diplomate status?

The costs of achieving diplomate status are incremental. Candidates may proceed at their own pace. The total fee is US$400 for those who proceed rapidly enough not to have to pay renewal, resubmission, or re-evaluation fees.

Q: What is the procedure for achieving diplomate status?

An ELS who wishes to take the diplomate examination must first be accepted into candidacy. Once accepted, the candidate submits a portfolio for evaluation. If the portfolio is judged acceptable, the candidate is awarded diplomate status. If any part of the portfolio is judged unacceptable, the candidate may submit a revised portfolio as long as he or she maintains candidacy.

Applying for candidacy: An eligible ELS may complete the application at any time. A summary of editing experience, two letters of reference or other documentation of at least 6 years of editorial experience, and a nonrefundable application fee of US$100 must be included. On acceptance, the candidate will be sent instructions for preparing and submitting the portfolio.

Portfolio: A candidate may submit a portfolio to BELS at any time with a completed form requesting evaluation and a nonrefundable evaluation fee of US$300. The registrar will notify the candidate of the examiners’ decision within 8 weeks.

If, in the judgment of the examiners, a portfolio shows exceptional proficiency in scientific editing according to BELS standards, the candidate will be awarded diplomate status. If the examiners determine that a portfolio or parts thereof do not meet BELS standards, the candidate will receive a summary of the reasons and will be invited to submit appropriate revisions for re-evaluation on payment of a nonrefundable re-evaluation fee. There is no limit on the number of portfolios a candidate may submit.

Q: What is the portfolio?

The portfolio consists of the following elements:

  • A total of 15 to 30 pages of scientific text and at least one table that the candidate has edited. The pages submitted must clearly show the candidate’s editorial contributions in all the categories specified in the Portfolio Guide. The material submitted may include pages from more than one manuscript. The pages may come from any kind of scientific publication, for example, journal articles, book chapters, grant proposals, instructional materials, or film scripts. The sample must be limited to 30 pages, although supporting material may make the overall portfolio longer. Samples judged by the registrar to be too long will be returned for revision and submission of an additional $25 fee.

  • Description of the circumstances under which the submitted material was edited.

  • Two essays of 500 to 1000 words each on topics related to concerns of editors in the life sciences. Each essay must be on a topic selected from the list of topics provided in the Portfolio Guide.  Each essay must take a position and defend it.
  • For full details please review the Portfolio Guide.

Q: How is the portfolio evaluated?

Participation in the diplomate process is confidential. The identity of candidates is known only to officers of BELS who are directly involved in the processing of examinations and not to examiners. The copies of the portfolio are distributed to three diplomate editors who are appointed as examiners for the individual candidate. Each portfolio is identified to them only by a number. Their evaluations are conducted according to guidelines developed by BELS.

Results of the examination are given only to the candidate. Announcements of those who achieve diplomate status are published by BELS, and rosters of BELS members with their status as certified or diplomate editors are published both in print and on the BELS website.

Q: Who are the examiners?

Examiners are appointed from among BELS members who have achieved diplomate status. Members serving on the Appeals Committee may not serve as examiners.

Q: Can examiners’ rulings be appealed?

Yes. The diplomate program includes procedures that ensure that portfolios are evaluated fairly.

Q: How should I prepare for the diplomate examination?

Careful study of the instructions in the Portfolio Guide is recommended. Any questions about the instructions should be directed to the BELS office (contact us).