Sunday, March 29, 2009

Recommendations to Assist ESL/EFL Scholars Publish

Note: “ESL” is used to refer to both ESL and EFL individuals.

Faculty who speak English as a first language (“L1”) and ESL faculty and post-doctoral fellows agree that ESL scholars often experience great difficulty writing successfully for publication in English language scientific journals. L1 scholars may express negativity toward their ESL colleagues in this regard, and the latter note significant frustration having their ideas understood and being mentored or assisted by the native speakers.

In a 2002 study conducted at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Pagel, Kendall & Gibbs interviewed 15 ESL faculty, 12 ESL fellows, and 4 L1 faculty to understand the perceptions and realities of the English writing abilities of ESL scholars for purposes of scholarly publication and advancement. The L1 faculty viewed providing coaching or mentoring to ESL fellows and junior faculty as time intensive, and of much greater benefit to the ESL scholar than to themselves. They did not expect to learn new things from the ESL scholar and did “not consider helping ESL faculty and fellows to be useful to their own careers.” (p. 112) Pagel and colleagues (2002) concluded, in part, that the complaints of L1 faculty do not recognize the possibility that these colleagues might, with sufficient training and attention, enhance the productivity of the research group.” (p. 112).

Furthermore, L1 faculty expressed concern that ESL fellows are at a loss when it comes to writing and need “spoon-feeding of conclusions.” (p. 112). Specifically regarding publishing, they commented, “For ESL people, I know I will have to rewrite an article from A to Z.” and “They give me things that are ‘completely unacceptable’ for publication.” (p. 112). Nonetheless, Pagel and colleagues (2002) found that L1s “recognize that better [ESL] writers would be valuable additions to their laboratories, but they are unwilling to assume the cost of training.” (p. 114).

ESL scholars were very aware of their writing challenges and how the L1 faculty regard their writing and abilities. They express frustration that L1 collaborators or senior faculty edit their work without consulting the ESL scholar. There is a strong sense they are not heard, are unable to express their ideas, “and henceforth … are not seen as valuable contributors.” (p. 113). Specific challenges reported by ESL scholars include: (1) having the ability to structure and publish a paper in their native language but not understanding the way to do so for an American or English-speaking audience; (2) writing the discussions of data and conclusions; and (3) having limited understanding of English generally and grammar particularly. They further noted the need for “specialized editorial service[s]”:
(1) Models / templates of scientific publications to follow;
(2) Having an editor clean up their English or a translator to help them find the right words;
(3) Having an L1 who knows the science to review and edit their work, because ESL faculty “fear that when papers are edited, the interpretation of data would be distorted.” (p. 113)
(4) Improved methods of teaching ESL learners through college and into academia to write effectively in English.
In contrast to ESL faculty, Pagel and colleagues (2002) indicated that
"American-born faculty are exceedingly surprised by how much editors with liberal arts degrees seem to know about science. Of course, editors are in fact not so much knowledgeable as they are clever: They can follow a line of argument, look at the cues and clues in the sentence, and detect errors that on the surface would seem to require a scientist’s knowledge to recognize.” (pp. 113-114).
In other words, an ESL scholar is likely to benefit significantly from the assistance of a skilled L1 editor, regardless of the editor’s specific disciplinary training.

Finally, to improve their English writing, ESL scholars suggested they would benefit from an editor’s “comments on how to improve for next time” and having “[o]pportunities to work in small groups on writing manuscripts.” (p. 114). Pagel and colleagues (2002) conclude with recommendations to

  • Provide model or templates of the American or English structure of a scientific paper, such as presentation of data, discussion and conclusions
  • “Make explicit the ways of doing things … that were long ago learned and integrated into the minds of editors who speak and write English as a first language.” (p. 114)
  • Provide regular and comprehensive coaching from the beginning of an ESL fellow or faculty joining the institution.

Pagel, W.J., Kendall, F.E., & Gibbs, H.R. (2002). Self-Identified Publishing Needs of Nonnative English-Speaking Faculty and Fellows at an Academic Medical Institution, Science Editor, 25(4), 111-114.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Publishing Challenges of ESL/EFL Scientific Scholars

Scholars internationally publish their work in English language, peer-reviewed journals and are expected to submit conference proposals and make conference presentations in English with growing frequency. Since 1929, Ren & Rousseau (2004) found that 203 English-language scientific journals were started in China, 199 of those since 1981, and 143 between 1985 and 1996 alone (p. 100). The thrust of these new English language journals in China and other countries in large part has been to capture greater international attention for the scholarly contributions of non-native English-speaking countries. Ren & Rousseau conclude, however, that China's English language journals have not had the desired impact.

What are the challenges for scholars, for whom English is a second or foreign language (ESL/EFL), if English is becoming the lingua franca of natural, social, and information sciences, among others? Can they compete for publication in the high impact journals of their discipline, regardless of their expertise and how excellent their research, with native English-speaking scholars of equal or lesser skill? What impact does this have on their ability to secure research funding, conference paper acceptance, tenure and other career prospects?

Ren & Rousseau (2004) suggest that China's English-language journals "should seriously consider joining the open access movement" to make their articles "freely available on the Internet." (p. 103). They argue this will provide greater visibility for these journals without pressuring library collections to pay for additional subscriptions. But to what degree is the absence of native-English writing abilities the greater barrier?

Ren, S. & Rousseau, R. (2004). The role of China’s English-language scientific journals in scientific communication, Learned Publishing, 17(2), 99–104. Available at

Friday, March 20, 2009

Plagiarism Part 3 - Authorship

In times past it was not uncommon for some professors to take credit for their students' work, writings, bright ideas, creativity, or novel solutions. Earning a doctorate was a right of passage in more than the obvious sense; the star pupil earned the right to get proper credit for their efforts. The extent of this practice may be easily exaggerated or perhaps under-counted. I do not hesitate to say that the tide has turned in the last few decades to this practice becoming more generally unacceptable in the academic community.

Yet vestiges of these practices may still thrive. Why? As a hypothetical matter, among a group of highly respected and accomplished scholars is an individual (Z) who frequently is offered publishing opportunities, and who does the following:
  1. Asks A to write an original article for Z, requiring extensive research, that is published in a respected scholarly venue under Z's name exclusively.
  2. Asks B to write an original article, requiring extensive research, that is published in a respected scholarly venue, giving authorship to Z and B in that order.
  3. Asks C to lead the research and writing of an original article among a team of researcher-writers D, E, and F, that is published in a respected scholarly venue, giving first authorship to Z, and then C, D, E, and F based upon their contributions and effort.
  4. Several years after co-authoring a scholarly book with G, H, and J that is published by a respected academic press, whereby authorship is attributed in the order Z, G, H, and J -- Z asks G, H, J, and K to prepare a second edition of the book, requiring substantial research and writing, and maintaining the original order of authorship without adding K.
  5. Asks L to lead the research and writing of an original article among a team of researcher-writers M, N, and P, that is published in a respected scholarly venue, giving authorship to L, M, N, and P based upon their contributions and effort, and Z as last author.
  6. Q, R, and S conduct original research and prepare a manuscript for publication in a special issue of a scholarly journal. Z is guest editor of the special issue. Authorship is given to Q, R, and S based upon their contributions and effort, and Z is last author.
  7. Z conducts original research and writing with T and V and their work (ZTV) is published in a scholarly venue, giving authorship to Z, T, and V in that order. A few years later, Z repackages ZTV and publishes it as sole author in a separate scholarly venue. The credits acknowledge that portions of the new article were drawn from ZTV, though neither T, V or the publisher of ZTV were consulted about the repackaging.
  8. Z conducts original research and writing, which is published in a scholarly venue with Z as sole author. A few years later Z repackages the original article and publishes it in a separate scholarly venue. The credits acknowledge that portions of the new article were drawn from the original, though the publisher of the original article was not consulted about the repackaging.
In addition to the above, Z generally provides some comments and edits to the final drafts. None of the researcher-writers A through V is a studcnt; they are all professional researchers and academics.

Do any of these scenarios constitute plagiarism? Why would any of the researcher-writers A through V permit these outcomes?

Comments are very welcome, as always. Each reader's thoughts regarding whether the 8 scenarios above (any or all) are acts of plagiarism, are encouraged.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Adding Data to the Open Access Debate

(1) A Finnish team of researchers, Björk, Roos and Lauri, present an analysis of the frequency of open access availability of scientific, peer-reviewed articles. They estimate that 4.6% of the 1.35 million articles published in 2006 (i.e., peer-reviewed articles indexed in three core Thomson Scientific citation databases and Ulrich's Periodicals Directory), became open access immediately upon publishing, known as "Gold Access". Another 3.5% of articles, referred to as "delayed open access," became available after about one year. Björk and colleagues further identified usable, "Green Access" copies of 11.3% of the 1.35 million articles available in free online repositories or author / institution home pages. The researchers combined the estimated percentages for Gold, Delayed, and Green Access to reach a total estimate that 19.4% of peer-reviewed articles published in 2006 have become open access.

This last calculation comes as a surprise to me that there would be no overlap between Green and Gold or Green and Delayed access articles. My own work and that of my colleagues is a prime example. We regularly maintain electronic copies of our peer-reviewed published works on our professional author and institutional pages, and are required by some funders to submit to them copies for their electronic repositories. Sometimes these copies are usable, pre-publication (Green) versions, and at other times they are Gold or Delayed versions. Are we alone in this practice?

(2) The Finnish study focuses its attention on peer-reviewed articles. Is this the right approach? Reasonably one may argue that exclusively focusing on peer-reviewed articles is the best measure of open access advances because they are likely to be more sought after by, and therefore, more valuable to the research community. As such, demand drives cost and value up, diminishing incentives for publishers of peer-reviewed journals to go to open access. Others may argue it is more a pragmatic matter of scholarly integrity.
In significant contrast, the U.S. legal community largely lacks a peer-review component, and in comparison to many other disciplines, probably makes greater use on a daily basis of published materials generally, and non-peer-reviewed materials specifically, than any other discipline. Historically, these non-peer-reviewed materials have fetched a handsome profit for publishers.
The legal community relies heavily, and almost exclusively, on published court opinions (i.e., decisions) and to a lesser extent on law review articles. The American Bar Association (2007) reported there were 1,143,358 practising attorneys in the United States in 2007. Judges often rely on law clerks to draft portions of a decision. While many judges consult one another before issuing a decision, they have no obligation to do so, and publishers of these decisions play no role in editing them -- the decision, in this respect, is sacrosanct (except under the scrutiny of a higher court).
Law review articles in the United States rarely undergo peer review. All but a relative handful of law journals are edited by law students, who are selected for the editorial boards of a given journal published by the student's law school. The vast majority of law review article authors are law faculty members.
All this has been to say, or to question, whether the sole focus on peer-reviewed articles to measure advances in open access is the best approach for doing so. It may be. However, the legal community may not be equally benefiting from open access of this nature. Free repositories of court decisions are becoming more widespread. Yet, comprehensive databases of court decisions and law review articles remain controlled by legal publishers.
American Bar Association, Statistical Resources: National Lawyer Population by State (2007), available at
Björk, B-C, Roos, A. & Lauri, M. (2009). "Scientific journal publishing: yearly volume and open access availability" Information Research, 14(1) paper 391. [Available from 12 January, 2009 at]
Thomson Scientific:
Ulrich's Periodicals Directory:
U.S. Courts, 2007 Judicial Facts and Figures (2007), available at

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Open Access - Who Stands to Lose and How?

The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University is the latest to join the open access movement. Implementation of the open access policy, which will make all faculty scholarly articles freely available on the web, follows on the heels of Dr. Peter Suber's February 26, 2009 guest lecture, "What is the Future of Open Access?" at Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet & Society.

In Greater Reach for Your Research: Expanding Readership Through Digital Repositories, the Canadian Association of Research Libraries and SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) explain that "Open Access is the principle that research should be accessible online, for free, immediately after publication. Digital repositories deliver Open Access to the materials they contain." (2008, p. 3). Among the many benefits are long-term preservation, persistent and universal access, faster discovery of information, broad and diverse content, and ensuring that students at every stage of education and life have access to scholarly information regardless of a schools' resources.

If making scholarly information available to the masses is a powerful, compelling, and democratizing argument for open access, what are the strongest and most interesting arguments against it? I'm going to need a little help making them interesting, but there is little doubt that the loudest voices speaking against open access will be those whose bottom line stands to lose. These would seem to be publishers and subscription databases, and their employees of course. In the present economic climate, we are all sensitized to the varying stability of our jobs and those of our family, friends, and neighbors.
I will admit I know very little of the specific financial interests that stand to lose. With this blog entry I challenge myself to learn more and welcome others to share their knowledge and experience on point.
Canadian Association of Research Libraries & SPARC, Greater Reach for Your Research: Expanding Readership Through Digital Repositories (Nov. 2008), available at
Peter Suber, What is the Future of Open Access? (Feb. 26, 2009), available at
Press Release, Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard Kennedy School Faculty Votes for Open Access for Scholarly Articles (March 16, 2009), available at

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Plagiarism Part 2 - "The Greater Good Factor"

On 6 March, 2009 I began this series to explore what society and academia understand plagiarism to be. In Part 1 I questioned whether my own paraphrasing of my college's plagiarism policy was itself an act of intentional plagiarism. And apparently I am not the first to question such a thing.

Recently, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch followed the issues of missing, high-profile library collections, a plague of plagiarism, and a revolving door to the chancellor's office at Southern Illinois University (SIU-Carbondale). Among these challenges was the accusation that SIU "plagiarized" an Indiana University policy in developing the new SIU plagiarism policy (Kumar, 2009).

Would it not be a smart college administrator aiming to implement an effective policy (e.g., plagiarism, grading, tenure, admissions) who turns to respected colleges with successful policies, to draft, model, or modify a new policy to meet its needs? Are the greater interests of all in higher education and all those served by higher education protected and enhanced by the sharing and dissemination of effective policies?

Today, models and templates for legal codes, constitutions, articles of confederation, mission statements, business plans, and financial, human resource, medical, school and other policies are available for adoption and modification in this same spirit of serving the greater good. The Office of Research Integrity (ORI) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services makes freely available the Model Policy for Responding to Allegations of Scientific Misconduct (ORI, n.d.1). This model serves the purpose of providing researchers and administrators in higher education with a means to comply with federal law regarding research integrity. Specifically, the model policy "applies to allegations of research misconduct (fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing, or reviewing research, or in reporting research results)." (ORI, n.d.2, p.1).

The common denominator among these examples would seem to be a purpose of serving a greater good. Let's call this the "greater good factor" and hypothesize that it is one factor in determining whether a practice is plagiarism.

Kumar, K. & Hahn, V.S. (2009, March 9). SIUC helmsman looks beyond media storms. St. Louis Post-Dispatch, at A1.
Office of Research Integrity. (n.d.1). Policies: ORI model policy for responding to allegations of scientific misconduct. Retrieved March 15, 2009, from
Office of Research Integrity. (n.d.2). ORI model policy for responding to allegations of scientific misconduct. Retrieved March 15, 2009, from

Sunday, March 8, 2009

New Models of Tenure Emerging

Tenure systems have varied in form and function across the many disciplines and years, and their opportunities have expanded or contracted with changing economic times. Present faculty layoffs and hiring freezes have some on tenure tracks concerned they may be denied tenure, and many others who seek positions (whether or not on a tenure track) very concerned with the absence of prospects. In the medical and health sciences, new models of tenure are emerging that provide greater flexibility to both institution and scholar, and that may question the utilty of tenure as we know it.
Tenure opportunities reportedly have declined in medical research over the last 30 years (Wald, 2009). In part, medical schools may prefer to fill short-term, grant funded positions with non-tenure track researchers. In response, highly promising researchers may see better prospects in medical institutes that can guarantee financial supports between and in addition to grant funding, or offer family-oriented benefits and mentoring. Other researchers who do seek a tenure track may negotiate a few years to master a position prior to officially starting the clock and the track's specific requirements (Wald, 2009).
In other disciplines, perhaps these developments are not so novel. Social science think tanks, both those attached to universities and not, may offer impressive funding, job security, benefits, and publishing opportunities, without the hassles of a tenure track. As quoted in Wald (2009), Dr. Andrea Ladd, now working at the Cleveland Clinic, articulates, "What I really need to look at, more than whether or not there's tenure, is what the environment's going to be like."
See: Chelsea Wald, Redefining Tenure at Medical Schools, CTSciNet, March 6, 2009, available at