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Academic Writing in a Global Context: The Politics and Practices of Publishing in English



Academic Writing in a Global Context addresses the issue of the pressure on academics worldwide to produce their work in English in scholarly publishing, and why the growth of the use of academic English matters. Drawing on an eight year ‘text-ethnographic’ study of the experiences of fifty scholars working in Europe, this book discusses these questions at both a macro and micro level- through discussions of knowledge evaluation systems on all levels, and analysis of the progress of a text towards publication. In addition to this, case studies of individual scholars in their local institutions and countries are used to illustrate experiences of using English in the academic world. Academic Writing in a Global Context examines the impact of the growing dominance of English on academic writing for publication globally. The authors explore the ways in which the global status attributed to English is impacting on the lives and practices of multilingual scholars working in contexts where English is not the official language of communication and throws into relief the politics surrounding academic publishing. This book will be of interest to postgraduates and professionals in the fields of World Englishes, language and globalization and English Language Teaching.
Academic Writing in a Global Context: The
Politics and Practices of Publishing in English
Theresa Lillis, Mary Jane Curry.
London/New York: Routledge, 2010. 203 pages. ISBN: 978-0-415-46883-1.
Academic Writing in a Global Context is a result of an eight year “text-oriented
ethnography”, which investigated publishing experiences and practices of
fifty scholars from two disciplines working in four countries in Central and
Southern Europe. The aim of the book is to “explore the impact of the
growing dominance of English as the global medium of academic
publications (…) where English is not the official or dominant means of
communication” (page 1). In other words, it addresses the growing global
status of English and its effects on academic text and knowledge
production, participation and access to resources. The volume makes a
relevant contribution to the discussion of the dominance of English in
academic publications and its consequences.
The volume is divided into seven chapters, each tackling a different aspect of
academic text and knowledge production. The approach, the background, as
well as key themes of the study are discussed in Chapter 1. Further
descriptions of “Methodological Tools” can be found throughout the book.
It is these, together with “Scholar Profiles”, dispersed throughout the
chapters, that are the major strength of this book, as they provide a useful
and interesting insight into the lives and experiences of individual scholars
as well as detailed descriptions of how the analyses of various texts were
performed. Additionally, all chapters also include “Text Histories”, through
which the authors exemplify different scholar practices and experiences.
The discussion of different aspects of scholars’ experiences begin in
Chapter 2, which deals with scholars’ publication practices, how they choose
to publish and how these choices are affected by pressures at different levels.
A large part of the chapter describes the different choices that scholars make
when it comes to deciding whether to publish in a national language or in
English, and whether they should intend to reach the national, international
or intranational community, as well as academic or applied community. The
chapter also investigates how publishing in English has become important in
order to receive research funding and promotion, and how these pressures
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influence the scholars when it comes to their choice of language and journal.
One theme which emerges from this chapter is “the sliding of the signifier
English towards international and vice versa” (page 59, authors’ emphasis),
which has resulted in English being attributed greater value. The authors
successfully develop and comment on this theme in the following chapters.
In Chapter 3 the authors explore scholars’ participation in local and
transnational networks. They focus on how the resources available are
different depending on what type and strength of network they participate
in. The authors conclude that maintenance of networks, especially
transnational networks, is very important, as the availability of resources
depends on them. Transnational networks are “less intense and durable than
local networks” (page 86), but they provide more opportunities for useful
feedback on research, help in publishing articles, books, and conference
papers, as well as language help.
Text and literacy brokers and the challenges the scholars face when dealing
with different types of brokering activities are the focus of Chapter 4. The
authors examine both language brokers, such as translators and
proofreaders, as well as academic brokers. It is the examination of the impact
of this second type of broker which is the most interesting in this chapter,
as this is where the authors clearly show how “unequal power relations”
(page 113) affect construction of knowledge, which is the central question
of the book.
Chapter 5 continues with the question of how knowledge is constructed and
valued by reflecting an “Enlightenment ideology of Science”. In this chapter
Lillis and Curry address locality, the relation between the local and the global,
and show that while scholars still perceive the local as being the most central
to their research, different kinds of knowledge are distributed nationally and
globally. The conclusion they draw is that “new” knowledge is published in
international journals, whereas “applied” knowledge and summaries are
published in national publications.
In Chapter 6 the focus changes to the discussion of the “more dystopic
aspects” (page 134) of knowledge construction and publishing in
Anglophone journals. Here the authors describe how centre-based
gatekeeping affects the construction of knowledge, in particular when the
scholars attempt to publish new knowledge. Locality in this context is valued
in relation to the Anglophone centre: It is either interpreted to provide
contrast and confirmation, or it is relocated within the centre. The scholars
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are thus expected “to account for locality in ways which are not expected of
knowledge that is located and produced from the default centre” (page 154).
This chapter therefore provides a useful contrast to Chapter 5, as it shows
how scholars can face great obstacles when trying to publish in major
English-medium (centre) journals.
The concluding chapter (Chapter 7) summarizes the key themes and findings
of the study, after which the different possible ways of changing centre-
based practices for the benefit of all scholars are identified. The authors
argue for the support of local publications and local languages, as well as for
the shift in criteria for judging journals from “international” towards
“internationality”, where non-centre contributions and collaboration should
be included and encouraged. Furthermore, in the final pages of the book,
Lillis and Curry effectively advocate the idea of “knowledge as a gift
economy”, where open access networks and journals and the use of Web 2.0
technology could facilitate global participation in text and knowledge
In conclusion, Academic Writing in a Global Context is a thorough exploration
of the consequences of the dominance of English in academic publishing.
It offers a good insight into the different aspects of academic text and
knowledge production and how these are influenced by the current
publishing practices. All in all, this volume is highly recommendable for
researchers and teachers whose interests lie in language and globalization and
academic writing.
[Review received March 2011]
[Revised review accepted April 2011]
Reviewed by Špela Mežek
Stockholm University (Sweden)
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... In 2014, 77 % of active scholarly peer-reviewed journals were English-language, as were 72 % of fully open access journals listed on Directory of Open Access Journals (own calculations based on Ware and Mabe, 2015). Moreover, 90 % of social science journals and 95 % of natural science journals use all or some English (Lillis and Curry, 2010). Evidently, scientific English has become a communication tool for a global community of scholars with different native languages (Hyland, 2015). ...
... With the globalisation of knowledge and the rise of the knowledge economy have come pressures to publish in English: for journals, which may then be more likely to be accepted into the prestige databases, and for researchers across the globe, who, along with their institutions and nations, receive recognition when publishing in high prestige journals (Corcoran and Englander, 2016;Englander and Corcoran, 2019). Lillis and Curry (2010), for example, found that publishing in English pervaded evaluation and rewards systems for academics in all the countries they studied (Slovakia, Hungary, Spain and Portugal). ...
... One form of linguistic injustice is if peer reviewers and editors judge the scholarly quality of academic writing more harshly if it does not meet expectations for international academic English, even if the content is good (Corcoran, 2019;Politzer-Ahles et al., 2020). Moreover, some authors make a case for the negative impact of monolingualism on science itself, arguing that the English medium is not neutral but political, dominated by the Anglophone academic world (Lillis and Curry, 2010). Monolingualism is more than simply 'one-language', it is also 'one-culture': a western cultural approach that comes with assumptions and expectations, that may be different to that held by an EAL scientist. ...
Disregarding research not published in English may pose a risk to finding solutions for urgent global concerns, such as biodiversity loss, or climate change. To assess the extent of this ‘missing voice’, we compared the representation of 22 languages in scientific publications on climate change in Africa, indexed by widely used databases. Between 87 % and 95 % of publications were in English, with a small, but noteworthy, number in languages of the former European colonisers of Africa. We then assessed undergraduate monographs, master’s dissertations, doctoral theses, and peer-reviewed papers derived from the doctoral theses, that are about Lusophone Africa and written in Portuguese, and found this research largely not accessible in English on online databases. If the goal of researchers, practitioners and policy makers is to obtain climate change information on, or present solutions for, individual developing countries, cultures, or localised issues, then searching in English may exclude local, context specific knowledge. This may prevent global assessments from being truly global, or locally down-scalable, by biasing science towards a single world view that marginalises key local stakeholders.
... 126). On the other hand, it is also difficult for LOTE teachers to publish in indexed international journals that often use English as the medium of publication [29]. However, research output plays a large part in successfully obtaining external research funding, and as a result, LOTE teachers find themselves at a serious disadvantage in external research funding applications due to their low research productivity. ...
... Hence, we were curious about whether our GLTs had tried to publish in international indexed journals. Most of the participants confirmed their awareness that the English language plays a dominant role in the international publishing market [28,29], and there are discrepancies in research paradigms regarding different languages. It was difficult for them to improve their language skills and enter the international publishing market in such a short time. ...
Full-text available
Abstract: The academic evaluation of teachers of languages other than English (LOTEs) has been extensively researched, especially from the perspective of academic publications. However, little attention has been paid to another key performance indicator in teacher assessment, namely, external research funding. Focusing on German language teachers (GLTs), this paper adopts a mixed methods approach to investigate the assessment requirements for LOTE teachers in terms of external research funding and the factors that may impact their accomplishments. Based on Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory and conservation of resources theory, we analyzed policy documents from the universities under investigation, examined “German or Germany-related” funding approvals, and conducted semi-structured interviews with eight GLTs to explore the environmental factors (individual context, institutional context, social context, chronological context) that may influence the survival of GLTs in terms of the requirements for external research funding. The findings indicate that factors from each ecological context interact with one another and have a combined influence on GLTs’ external research funding application activity. Moreover, there is an imbalance between the academic demands faced by GLTs and the resource support that is available to them. This imbalance may affect the survival and development of GLTs and is likely to have a continuing influence throughout their career. The study concludes by offering some suggestions at different levels to facilitate the sustainable professional development of GLTs.
... However, we found that one relevant area of studies is little discussed in this chapter or other parts in the book. For many EAL scholars, proofreaders, who act as literacy brokers or text mediators, play a pivotal role in the editing process to overcome their language gap for publication (Lillis & Curry, 2010;Luo & Hyland, 2016). The textual interventions proofreaders have made can increase the chance of publishing success and we would therefore have expected to see more content related to this role and the process of text mediation. ...
... However, we found that one relevant area of studies is little discussed in this chapter or other parts in the book. For many EAL scholars, proofreaders, who act as literacy brokers or text mediators, play a pivotal role in the editing process to overcome their language gap for publication (Lillis & Curry, 2010;Luo & Hyland, 2016). The textual interventions proofreaders have made can increase the chance of publishing success and we would therefore have expected to see more content related to this role and the process of text mediation. ...
... 243). Since then, the idea of the 'linguistic injustice' that multilingual scholars experience in the process of writing and publishing their research has been developed in many studies reporting that the scholars feel inequality compared to native speakers [33][34][35][36][37][38][39]. Even in the titles of publications, the authors stress difficulties [40,41] or treat writing research in L2 as a 'burden' [42]. ...
... Some studies focused on the impact of national and institutional policies about publishing on multilingual scholars' writing practices [13][14][15]57,58]. Others explored the interventions of gatekeepers and 'literacy brokers' in the process of text production [34,48,[59][60][61]. While these studies were conducted in various geographic locations, none of them examined Russian scholars' perceptions of research writing and their publication practices. ...
Full-text available
This paper reports on the study of multilingual speakers’ perception of their research writing practices in English and in their local language—Russian—and the publication process in English. It is based on interviews with 18 scholars from social sciences and humanities working in a leading university in Russia. The study discusses social factors influencing multilingual scholars’ choice of languages as well as their personal motivation to choose English as the main language of publication. Special attention is given to their attitude to proofreading as part of the publication process. The interview results suggest that, from the participants’ perspective, the benefits they gain by publishing research in English seem to outweigh costs they experience in the process of writing and publishing. The study contributes to the on-going debate about the position of multilingual scholars in the competition to publish in top-rated journals, suggesting that the traditional doctrine of linguistic injustice, from the participants’ point-of-view, does not seem to be relevant for every multilingual scholar.
... For practical reasons, only English language papers were included. Although multilingual scholars have generally expressed positive views about publishing in English (Martin et al, 2014), it has been noted that the texts of these scholars may elicit biases against the writers themselves in the responses of journal editors and reviewers (Lillis and Curry, 2011). The selection of only English literature therefore limits this review to a worldview expressed predominantly by Western authors, and through platforms controlled by Western actors. ...
Conference Paper
Although medical school regulation is ubiquitous, the extent to which it should be based on global principles is unclear. In 2010, the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG), announced that from 2023, overseas doctors would only be eligible for certification to practise in the United States if they had graduated from a medical school that was accredited by a ‘recognised’ agency. This policy empowered the World Federation for Medical Education (WFME) to create a recognition programme for regulatory agencies around the world, despite a lack of empirical evidence to support medical school regulation. In this study, I employ critical discourse analysis, drawing on the theoretical perspectives of Michel Foucault and Edward Said, to identify discourses that enabled this ‘globalising’ policy decision to take place. The dataset includes a series of documents gathered around three key events: the Edinburgh declaration by WFME in 1988, the first set of global standards for medical schools by WFME in 2003, and the ECFMG ruling about medical school accreditation in 2010. Two discourses, endorsement and modernisation, were dominant throughout this entire period, and framed the move to globalise medical school regulation in terms of altruism and improving medical education worldwide. A discourse of resistance was present in the earlier period of this study but faded away as WFME aligned itself with ECFMG. Two further discourses, protection and control, emerged in the later period of this study, and framed the ECFMG ruling in terms of nationalism and protecting American interests. This study introduces Said’s ‘contrapuntal’ analysis to the field of medical education, synthesising it with Foucauldian principles to propose a new conceptualisation of the relationship between ECFMG and WFME. It goes on to consider the implications of this association for the legitimacy of WFME as an organisation that represents all of the world’s medical schools.
... Studies in the emerging field of English for Research and Publication Purposes (ERPP), a branch from English for Academic Purposes (EAP) (Cargill & Burgess, 2008;Lillis & Curry, 2006a), have demonstrated an increase in the proportion of English-medium papers published by multilingual academics who do not have English as their first language (Wood, 2001;Bordons & Gomez, 2004;Benfield & Feak, 2006;Flowerdew, 2013). In addition, considerable research related to the dominance of English for global knowledge production has been conducted in non-Anglophone settings (Ammon, 2010;Curry & Lillis, 2004Englander, 2014;Ferguson et al., 2011;Flowerdew, 1999Flowerdew, , 2001Flowerdew, , 2007Flowerdew, , 2008Flowerdew, , 2013Lillis & Curry, 2006a, 2006b, 2010a, 2010bLopez-Navarro et al., 2015;Perez-Llantada et al., 2011). Nevertheless, investigations are still scarce in geolinguistic regions located in the global semi-periphery, such as in Latin American countries, like Brazil and Mexico (Bennett, 2014;Canagarajah, 2002;Monteiro & Hirano, 2020). ...
This paper examines the context of scholarly knowledge production and dissemination in Brazil by comparing the publishing practices in both Portuguese and in English of Brazilian scholars who hold a research grant, across eight fields of knowledge. Data consists of 1,874 Curricula Vitae and the analysis focused on the language, number, and genres of publications over a three-year period (2014 to 2016). The study revealed a clear contrast regarding the more frequent use of English by researchers in the ‘harder’ sciences and the preference for Portuguese by those in the ‘softer’ sciences. The results also suggested an interconnection in which scholars who published the most tended to adopt English. Multiple factors involved in the genre and language choices made by academics were analysed, such as characteristics of the work produced by each disciplinary community, the audience of the research, the type of language used, and the need to obtain research funding. This investigation can potentially inform policies and investments in Brazilian higher education and research to provide continued support specific to the needs of different disciplinary communities, as well as foster the inclusion of multilingual scholars who do not have English as their first language in the global arena of knowledge production and dissemination.
... Other languages identified follow the order: German (n = 6, 1%), Spanish (n = 5, 1%), Portuguese (n = 4, 1%), Chinese (n = 2, 1%), Dutch (n = 2, 0%), English/Spanish (n = 2, 0%), Korea (n = 1, 0%) and Japanese (n = 1, 0%), as shown in Figure 2. Studies have shown the importance of publishing scientific findings in English. Researchers whose first language is not English are pressured to publish their scientific articles in English [43,44]. While some researchers prefer to use their first non-English languages, especially when the language is used globally, most researchers prefer to use English because of the desire to disseminate their findings to a wider audience, the internationalization of many Universities and research institutes, as well as many scientific journals insisting on the English language [45]. ...
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This review maps the global research landscape of the public health implications of Arcobacter from the food–environment interphase using content analytics and integrated science mapping. The search term “Arcobacter” was used to retrieve relevant articles published in Web of Science and Scopus between 1991 to 2019. The number of articles included in the review was 524, with 1304 authors, 172 journal sources, and a collaborative index of 2.55. The annual growth rate of the publications was 9.74%. The most contributing author in the field was Houf K., with 40 publications, 26 h-index, and 2020 total citations. The most productive country was the USA (13.33%). The majority of the articles were published in English (96%) and in the Journal of Food Protection (8.02%). The highest research outputs were in the field of Microbiology (264). The frequently occurred keywords were Arcobacter, poultry, shellfish, cattle, and chicken. This study revealed a fair increase in the growth rate of Arcobacter-related research—especially in the area of isolation and detection of the pathogen in foods and food environments, as well as the pathogenesis and genetic diversity of the pathogen. Research themes in the area of prevalence and epidemiology seem to be underexplored.
... What this transformation away from national languages towards English means for researchers' text production has most profoundly been investigated by Lillis and Curry (2010). In a comprehensive ethnographic study, they examined the production of academic texts by 50 researchers from Slovakia, Hungary, Spain and Portugal. ...
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