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