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

Friday, March 6, 2009

Plagiarism - What Is It? Part 1

In the academic community, it is not debated that plagiarism is Bad. Cases of student plagiarism seem to abound, sometimes with impunity, and institutional policies are declaring war on it.

Late last spring, a student working for me and for whom I had positive regard, threw together a draft report before leaving for summer. The student had borrowed a significant amount of verbatim language from other sources, minimally citing them and using no quotation marks. As is often the case, these problems stuck out to me because the direct language was phrased in a manner so unlike the student's writing. My institution's policy addresses these matters as follows, and I paraphrase:
  • Plagiarism - intentional passing off of another person's words, ideas or work as if it is one’s own
  • Unattributed Copying - passing off of another person's words, ideas or work as if it is one’s own because of reckless or grossly negligent practices
  • Verbatim copying of another person's words, ideas or work without proper attribution is presumed plagiarism and conclusively presumed unattributed copying.
I am curious that my college's policy seems to draw a distinction of intent between plagiarism and unattributed copying; but when verbatim copying occurs, the policy considers them to be essentially the same. Moreover, whether deemed plagiarism or unattributed copying, the accused is equally subject to a highly formal process involving a complaint, a determination whether to prosecute, and a lengthy hearing, and which can equally conclude with suspension or expulsion.

In this blog entry I have carefully paraphrased my college's policies because I do not wish to single out my college or have to cite the student code of conduct. And yet, am I not plagiarizing the code of conduct - according to the code itself - because it further provides that paraphrasing without clearly indicating and crediting the source also constitutes plagiarism or unattributed copying?

I suspect that a key difficulty with defining plagiarism is that in the process of doing so we may rather quickly reach some bizarre if not absurd results. Yet, it is not something we can ignore. And so in this blog series, "Plagiarism - What Is It?"I will explore just what it is we think or know plagiarism to be.

In closing, I shall leave the reader with an idea I have formulated (or think I have), and will reflect back upon it, as I suspect it will be a kind of beacon, or homing mechanism, when I drift too far out. I have Googled this idea, these words as put together, to see if really I am just stealing someone else's idea or words. And they seem to be my own.

"Artists are perhaps the most plagiarized and the least paid, though they complain about it a lot less than journalists and scholars."

All the Present Fuss About Adjuncts

The role of adjunct faculty is drawing a lot of attention in the academic community among the tenured, tenure track, and those seeking such positions (Lesko, 2009). Adjunct faculty also are generating much attention through organized efforts to unionize (Ingram, 2009). Some of the comments in the news and online discussions have been highly disparaging, such as suggesting adjuncts are not interested in student learning or are undeserving of teaching opportunities when others more qualified are looking for full-time appointments.
The adjuncts I know are committed to student learning and generally have greater expertise than those recently graduated from Ph.D. or profesional programs. This is because they typically have spent the time in the field (in the trenches) living and breathing the work, and truly becoming expert in an area of teaching need. Academia can be subject to criticism when placing recent graduates directly into teaching. I would not want my child learning from a teacher who was trained by an education faculty who had never taught children. I do not wish to see a dentist who was trained by a dental faculty who never practiced dentistry. This matter of expertise is worthy of greater discussion.
Sommer Ingram, Adjunct Committee Reflects Local Concern, The Lariat Online, March 4, 2009, available at
P.D. Lesko, The Blame Game and Part Timers, The Chronicle of Higher Education, March 5, 2009, availabel at

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Hiring and Tenure in the Current Economic Climate

There are a great many opinions and experiences being shared regarding hiring and tenure issues due to the economic downturn. Colleges and universities that keep their searches open are benefiting from a stronger than usual applicant pool, and first choices may more readily be accepting offers. Professor Molly Olsen at Macalester College in St. Paul argues that filling tenure track positions and maintaining the tenure line is important to students, educational quality, and the institution (Kerwin, 2009). But many schools are actively cutting spending in ways that particularly impact potential hires, adjuncts, and those on tenure track.
There is great variation in how schools are handling budget cuts. Those seeking tenure track are among a wider and more talented field aiming for fewer opportunities. Perhaps more than anything, institutional and departmental climate may dictate impacts on present faculty. Is a department seeking to diversify its faculty and expertise, or replicate itself? Is the present economic downturn a reason to award tenure and preserve faculty lines, or deny tenure to save money and fill teaching gaps with adjuncts? Does support for awarding tenure come from within the department, perhaps in spite of deans and provosts, or only from deans and provosts?
Generally, we know whether or not our departments and colleges provide a supportive climate for non-tenured faculty. In times of budget cuts, if they do, our working extra hard is more likely to pay off. If they do not, our working extra hard may just keep us in an environment that is unhealthy.
See: Daniel Kerwin, Current Professor Searches Draw Top Candidates, The Mac Weekly, February 20, 2009, available at

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Open Access Journals

Scholarly journals are now regularly adopting open access policies, often as part of broader social justice initiatives and/or to build a more international reputation. Thirty-five (35) of South Africa's top academic journals across multiple disciplines will go 'Open' by the end of 2009, aiming to increase access for the benefit of development in Sub-Saharan Africa (Makoni & Scott, 2009).
When I first saw one of my colleagues publishing in an electronic-only journal a few years back, I was quite reluctant to participate, and did not though the opportunity existed. My discomfort arose, in part, from the prospect of losing the satisfaction of pulling a print copy of my work off of my bookshelf anytime I pleased. It also struck me that technology had advanced to the point of permitting most anyone with access to a computer and the Internet to start an e-journal or self-publish. Were our standards for peer review and other forms of vetting our work becoming just a little less important?
Maintaining scholarly integrity in the present publishing climate is becoming evermore challenging. The ubiquity of information alone tests the academic's resolve to scrutinize each piece of information for its authority, methodology, and contribution. That said, I do support open access initiatives; they are a democratizing force in a world where many people lack the opportunity to practice freedom of thought and action. Open access undoubtedly will increase the competition for resources among scholars, and may push academics to seek to standout in both more deserving and questionable ways.
See: Munyaradzi Makoni & Christina Scott, South Africa: Top Science Journals to Go Open Access,, March 2, 2009, available at

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Scholarly Integrity in a Rapidly Changing Academic Environment

In April 2008, the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) released a report announcing the Project for Scholarly Integrity, funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Research Integrity. The report, "The Project for Scholarly Integrity in Graduate Education: A Framework for Collaborative Action," described significant concern for three phenomena in recent past and present research activities in higher education: (1) increased instances of research misconduct, (2) commercial and governmental encroachment upon the freedom of academic research, and (3) increased responsibility or expectations for reseachers in a global academic community. These developments occur, nonetheless, while researchers, especially in the medical and scientific communities, continue to have high public confidence.
Among the more compelling factors reported by the CGS that influence the present climate was its juxtaposition of the "ever-contracting 'half-life' of knowledge" with the increase in "average age of first tenure appointments and ... average time spent in postdoctoral appointments." (p. 6). Faculty on tenure track may more frequently experience pressures that quantity takes precedence over quality in tenure decisions. Furthermore, the report suggested that the shear rate of research, competition for funding, and "unprecedented opportuntities for ... broad public benefit" have pressured researchers to reach conclusive findings and seek prompt publication at the expense of traditional scientific replication or self-regulation (p. 7).
While the CGS report emphasized these developments primarily in the context of the health, natural, and engineering sciences, it did not excuse other disciplines from these concerns, recommending the importance of including the social sciences and humanities in the dialogue to reach systemic solutions.
Some unique social and economic benefits may only arise from interdisciplianry collaborations among such diverse disciplines as law, education, psychology, information technology, and communications. Ultimately, all researchers may be impacted by these phenomena and may wish to monitor the activities and outcomes of the CGS Project for Scholarly Integrity.
For more information:
Council of Graduate Schools, The Project for Scholarly Integrity in Graduate Education: A Framework for Collaborative Action (Apr. 28, 2008), available at