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  • English as the International Language of Science: A Case Study of Mexican Scientists’ Writing for Publication

    by

    James Nicholas Corcoran

    A thesis submitted in conformity with the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy

    Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education

    University of Toronto

    © Copyright by James Corcoran 2015

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    English as the International Language of Science: A Case Study

    of Mexican Scientists’ Writing for Publication

    James Nicholas Corcoran

    Doctor of Philosophy

    Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning

    Ontario Institute for Studies in Education

    University of Toronto

    2015

    Abstract

    Global dissemination of scientific findings is imperative for scientific advancement. However,

    the domination of English as an international language of science (EILS) has placed a potentially

    inequitable burden on multilingual periphery scholars attempting to disseminate their research

    findings in indexed scientific journals. While such scholars have been the focus of much recent

    research into this English for research publication purposes (ERPP), little empirical research has

    taken place in Latin America. This instrumental case study examines the experiences of Mexican

    scientists via an academic writing for publication course (AWC) delivered in Canada and

    Mexico between 2011 and 2013. This study attempts to better understand scientists’ perspectives

    on the growing expectations of publishing their research in English, their challenges to achieving

    publication of research articles in indexed scientific journals, and their perceptions of the

    efficacy of an AWC at addressing these challenges.

    Rich, triangulated survey and interview data point to a grudging acceptance of the growing

    expectations for publishing in English as well as a widespread perception among Mexican

    scientists of bias against them at international scientific journals. Further findings include a

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    comprehensive list of emerging (PhD student) and established (faculty) scientists’ ERPP

    challenges as well as improved scholar confidence following an intensive AWC. Critical

    interpretation of findings leads to discussion of participant perceptions of EILS and ERPP within

    a market of linguistic exchange where asymmetrical power relations and pervasive ideologies of

    language underscore significant barriers to multilingual scholars achieving a fuller connection to

    their desired scientific discourse communities. Implications stemming from the study findings

    include critical, pragmatic suggestions for those involved in the support, production, revision,

    and adjudication of scientific writing for publication at Mexico University (pseudonym) as well

    as suggestions for future research avenues into the complex role(s) of English and ERPP

    instruction in the global production of scientific knowledge.

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    Acknowledgements

    First, I would like to offer my sincere thanks to the graduate students, faculty, instructors,

    administrators, and scientific journal editors involved in this project for giving their time:

    Muchissimas gracias a todos y todas! I would also like to thank the directors of MEX University-

    Canada for providing me with access to the two research sites during delivery of the academic

    writing for publication course. In particular I would like to thank two people who were

    instrumental in both designing the MEX U-C AWC and facilitating completion of my data

    collection: Dr. Alejandro Velázquez and Carolyn Brown. Alex was supportive throughout my

    data collection and analysis, providing me with his valuable time and resources across North

    America whenever requested. My dear friend Carolyn was always available with her helpful

    insights and reflections and, most of all, friendship that transcends this project.

    Next, I am deeply thankful to my supportive core supervisory committee composed of my

    supervisor, Dr. Antoinette Gagné and committee members Dr. Jim Cummins and Dr. Katherine

    Rehner. Their feedback and guidance have proven invaluable. Antoinette in particular has long

    been a source of stability, support, encouragement, and knowledge while my confidence and

    written production ebbed and flowed. She is truly an educational role model and I strive to one

    day provide the same type of leadership and support for my students as she shows for hers.

    Further thanks to my external examiner, Dr. Mary Jane Curry, for her extensive feedback and

    critique as well as Dr. Alister Cumming and Dr. Jeff Bale for their constructive feedback.

    Many thanks as well to various OISE personnel for their data analysis assistance and guidance,

    including Olesya Falenchuk (NVivo) and Monique Hebert (SPSS). I also owe a debt of gratitude

    to those administrators who kept my spirits high throughout my time in that lovely concrete

    building, including Michelle Pon (CTL) and Carrie Chassels (OSSC).

    Further, I am pleased to acknowledge the funding bodies that enabled this research project,

    including the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education/University of Toronto; the School of

    Graduate Studies Travel Program; the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of

    Canada; and the Ontario Graduate Scholarship.

    Next, a heartfelt thank you to my special OISE and University of Toronto friends—Arif Anwar,

    Kara Janigan, Oisin Keohane, Ranya Khan, Robert Kohls, Kirk Perris, Gary Pluim, Erin

    Sperling, Saskia Stille, Marlon Valencia, Maryam Wagner—and to the various iterations of my

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    thesis study group, for their academic support and friendship over the years.

    Finally, to my family for their unwavering support over the past seven years thank you and many

    thanks in advance for your patience over the next twenty years or so. A special debt of gratitude

    goes to my lovely wife Leah without whose patience and support—both emotional and

    academic—completion of this project would have been unlikely.

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    Table of Contents

    ABSTRACT ................................................................................................................ ii  

    ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS .................................................................................. iv  

    LIST OF TABLES ................................................................................................. xiii  

    LIST OF FIGURES ............................................................................................... xv  

    LIST OF APPENDICES ..................................................................................... xvi  

    GLOSSARY OF ABBREVIATIONS AND ACRONYMS ................... xvii  

    GLOSSARY........................................................................................................... xviii  

    CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION, BACKGROUND, AND RATIONALE .............................................................................................................. 1  

    Introduction ............................................................................................................ 1   Academic writing as a social and geopolitical practice of text production. ............................................................................................................. 2  

    Background Context .......................................................................................... 3   Los estados unidos de México. ........................................................................ 3   Scientific production in Mexico. ........................................................................ 4   Mexico University (MEX U). .............................................................................. 5   Mexico University-Canada academic writing for publication course. ...... 6  

    Positioning, Rationale, and Research Questions ............................... 8   Thesis Overview .................................................................................................. 9  

    CHAPTER 2. LITERATURE REVIEW ....................................................... 11   English as an International Language of Science (EILS) ............. 11  

    The ascension of EILS. .................................................................................... 11   Theoretical positioning on the spread of EILS. ........................................... 12   Linguistic legitimacy and quality control: ISI, IF and evaluation systems. ............... ................................................................................................................. 15  

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    NNES Attitudes Towards EILS and ERPP: Acceptance and Resistance ........................................................................................................... 16  

    Perceptions of EILS and ERPP. ..................................................................... 17   Language choice: English or national/local language. ............................. 18   Perceived bias against non-native English-speaki