Writing and Publishing Scientific Research Papers in English
A special issue of Publications (ISSN 2304-6775).
Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 March 2018) | Viewed by 36018
Interests: scientific English (diachronic and synchronic perspective); ESP/EAP; EAL (English as an additional language) teaching and learning : multilingualism/internationalization ; writing and publishing in science ; epistemology
All scientific researchers are faced with pressure to publish (“or perish”) their results in renowned English-speaking journals for two reasons: 1) English is the universal/international language of scientific communication and 2) publishing research results is an integral part of a researcher’s professional life. Although most research articles are published in English, scientific research is an international and intercultural activity in the 21st century, and numerous authors come from a wide range of language and cultural backgrounds and are non-native English speakers. However, writing is not every researcher’s favorite activity, and the obstacles in getting a paper published can be stressful, above all when English is not the author’s native language. There are difficulties associated with getting work published: Difficulties that operate for all scientists, plus some that are specific to scientists working in contexts where English is a foreign or second language. The latter situation adds another layer to the challenges facing authors themselves, journal editors, and reviewers. In addition to language-related barriers, it is also important to realize that writing is a skill, whatever the language; regardless of being non-native scientists or those who speak English as their first language.
The aim of this call for paper is:
a. to analyze scientific research articles in English from a cultural point of view,
b. to explore the impact of writing and publishing scientific articles in English on several elements related to the process of writing these articles (English language, knowledge, other languages, the researcher, the journals, the processes of writing and publishing and other suggestions),
c. to envisage training in the writing of scientific research articles for worldwide non-native English researchers.
a. The linguistic point of view, and more especially discourse analysis of scientific articles, have been examined by numerous Anglo-Saxon researchers (e.g., Hyland, 1990; Swales, 1990) and fewer French researchers (Banks, 1995, 2017; Carter-Thomas, 2001; Rowley-Jolivet, 2001, 2002). However, there is less research regarding “culture” from a non-Anglo-Saxon approach. In introducing the notion of genre, John Swales (1990) led a move to new territory, as far as the teaching of writing is concerned, away from approaches and issues that were prevalent at the time, such as process writing, organization, revision, cohesion and coherence, grammar, vocabulary, and error analysis.
b. Impact on English, knowledge and other languages
Writing in English for non-native scientists may have an impact on English as a language and also on scientific knowledge itself. English as a lingua franca (ELF) has emerged as a way of referring to communication in English between speakers with different first languages; this is the reason why ELF is the language used in science. However, language is not limited to communication; it is also tied to the creation of concepts. As English is developed and transformed by its non-native users into an international scientific communication language, there is a risk of developing an impoverished form of English. The use of English as a lingua franca, devoid of culture, and used in scientific discourse may affect the transmission and the production of scientific knowledge
Another important dimension that has already been discussed in the field of science: In which language should an article be written in order to have a coherent and correct dissemination of new scientific concepts? The question of languages in the different disciplines has been debated in the European community for a long time, particularly in the dialogue at the conference Science and Languages in Europe, held in Paris, in 1994, and collected in a book by Roger Chartier and Pietro Corsi (1996). The book focuses on languages in science, from a diachronic perspective with the opposition of vernacular languages and the universal language, then between natural languages and the perfect language with the search for the ideal language of science, and finally between vernacular and vehicular languages. This was the case with Latin as it is with English in the contemporary scientific community; for example, in the proceedings of the symposium held at the University of Quebec in Montreal, in 1996 on French and the scientific language of the future, with a focus on French, and, more recently, in the Franco-German journal Trivium in 2013 on the issue Science thinks in several languages in the case of cultural studies. This is not a problem that refers to linguistics only; the issue is much more a fundamental question: How do scientists from different linguistic and cultural areas communicate with each other, and, most importantly, how do they produce knowledge together? This question refers to the more general problem of the relationship between language and knowledge, a question as old as science itself. Another article written by two Germans, Ralph Mocikat and Hermann Dieter, in the French journal Les langues modernes, in 2014, deals with the future of the German language in science and the consequences of English use in science in the production of knowledge. Even though disseminating knowledge in English is, nowadays, mandatory, can meaning be sacrificed in the name of diffusion? We should not forget that language and its culture shape the thinking of individuals. We all know that the scientific community is international. Yet scientific knowledge is produced by researchers who belong to specific countries. How can multiculturality and multilinguality be conveyed in science?
Impact on the different “cultures”
Publication-wise, are the reviewers or publication standards not responsible for the domination of one unique language in the name of internationalization and even “merchandization” of knowledge? Is the dissemination of scientific knowledge not participating, at the same time, in the devaluation and disappearance of swathes of other cultures (French and German culture for example)?
Impact on the researcher’s native language
What about the language of the authors themselves? Constantly writing and, perhaps, thinking in English may affect the researcher’s native language and process of thinking as language and its culture affect the way one thinks (concept of linguistic relativity, Sapir and Whorf). How are the authors affected?
Impact on the researcher’s identity
The following aspect questions the researcher’s identity. The world is multicultural and multilingual and belongs to a complex system (Morin, 1990). However, the scientific community uses one unique language, English, to convey scientific knowledge. How do the researchers who live in a particular nation with a specific culture live this apparent contradiction? Is there an opposition between the two dimensions of the researcher – as an individual and as a professional in science?
Impact on the researcher’s psycho-affective dimension
Another question arises concerning the affective dimension. Little research has been undertaken in this domain. As Arnold (1999) remarks: The question is how to introduce emotional and physical aspects to support cognitive processes? Has the use of a language, which is foreign to the scientist, caused some consequences on the psycho-affective process of writing, as well as on the individual? For example, does it entail more stress? What are the socio-affective parameters when writing a scientific research article in English? What are the prerequisites for writing a “satisfactory” scientific article?
c. Some researchers are often denied publication of their articles in international journals. What are the reasons for such state of fact? (The scientific content will not be envisaged as a reason). The main reason is, not that of language, but of culture: Anglo-Saxon and publication culture. There are conventions for Anglo-Saxon readers. A number of terms or expressions that are not related to scientific terms, but which have specific functions, are expected: boosters (verbs such as show, demonstrate, prove, nouns such as evidence, adjectives and adverbs predominant, definitely), hedges. It is important to use them properly. They are used to argue, to convince, to mark the attitude of the author in relation to his message and his readers. It is often said that non-English speakers do not qualify their speech, are too direct, affirmative, or categorical. They must not hesitate to use words or phrases in order to modulate, refine, or/and clarify ideas.
From a didactic perspective, what type of learning and teaching systems can be devised to meet these ever-increasing expectations and to reestablish the multiplicity of languages and cultures in the scientific domains? For example, French scientific researchers can write their articles because they have learned to do it through practice and by using their intuition. No real framework for this task has been systematically and institutionally devised. Even though there are translation agencies, only knowledge of a language is not enough, it is necessary to have a professional mastery of the field of specialty. The problem is that there is little training in scientific writing in master or doctoral studies in France, if any, whereas, in the US for instance, there are English for Academic Purposes (EAP) classes.
Interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary approaches in connection with languages can be considered when discussing one aspect of the CFP. Theoretical reflections and field enquiries may also be accepted.
- Arnold, J. (ed.) 1999. Affect in Language Learning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Banks, D. (1995). There is a cleft in your sentence: Less common clause structures in scientific writing. ASp 7-10, 3-11.
- Banks, D. (2017). The Birth of the Academic Article Le Journal des Sçavans and the Philosophical Transactions, 1665-1700. Equinox Publishing.
- Carter-Thomas, S. & E. Rowley-Jolivet. (2001). Syntactic differences in oral and written scientific discourse: the role of information structure. ASp 31-33, 19-37.
- Chartier, R. and Corsi, P. (eds.) (1996) Sciences and Languages in Europe. Paris: Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales.
- Hyland, K. (1990). Academic Discourse: English in a Global Context. London: Continuum.
- Leduc, P. (1996). Les implications culturelles des pratiques scientifiques [Cultural implications of scientific practices]. Conférence de synthèse la langue d’usage en science: responsabilité collective ou individuelle, Université du Québec, Montréal, 19 to 21 March 1996.
- Mocikat, R. and Dieter, H. (2014) La langue allemande pour la science, quel avenir ? [What is the future of German language for science]. Les langues modernes, 1: 35–41.
- Morin, E. (1990). Introduction à la pensée complexe. Paris: Seuil.
- Rowley-Jolivet, E. (2002). Science in the making: Scientific conference presentations and the construction of facts. In Ventola, C. Shalom & S. Thompson (dir.), 95-125.
- Swales, J. 1990. Genre Analysis. English in Academic and Research Settings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
 The term «scientific» refers to experimental and formal sciences.
Dr. Claire Chaplier
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- English as a lingua franca
- scientific knowledge
- professional identity
- psycho-affective factors
- multilingual and multicultural contexts
- teaching and learning systems
- publication standards