Date: Thu 15 Nov 12:26:47 EST 2012
From: Yiqiang Wang
Subject: Language Discrimination Survey
Dear Dr. Nguyen:
I am a scientist from China and I am writing to invite you to participate in a survey about the suspected Language/ Institution Discrimination or Discrimination In Name of Language (LID/DINOL) during the process of peer-reviewing and decision-making in the society of academic publishing. I found your email address from the FASEB Membership List obtained from the organization (I am an AAI member also). I hope you would kindly spend some time to help me by answering the questions. Not any confidential information (like name or email address) is required nor will be included in the raw data or later analysis process. So please kindly answer each question as accurate as possible. To help all the scientific societies to realized the existence or eliminate the fear of LID/DINOL, I am planning to publish the final statistical results and possible interpretation in public journals.
In brief, as a scientist using English as a second language, I often encounter the criticism from reviewers about the language quality of our manuscripts submitted to journals. Though I have to admit that my English is not perfect, I suspect that there is Language/Institution Discrimination, or even worse, Discrimination In Name Of Language, here. My suspicion is supported by a couple of extreme examples happened with my own papers. One of our manuscripts was criticized by the first-round reviewers as “Several grammatical and word usage errors are present in all parts of the manuscript. A critical evaluation of these aspects of the manuscript is recommended”. To be cautious and “critical” enough, we had our revised manuscript edited (per pay service) by a faculty member from the School of Medical Science at Griffith University, Australia. To ensure that the reviewer will recognize our effort in language issue, the Australian editor provided us an official certificate in which he introduced himself and also stated “I review scientific manuscripts for many high quality English language science journals including Current Biology, The Journal of Cell Biology, The EMBO Journal, Molecular and Cellular Biology, Molecular Biology of the Cell, The Journal of Cell Science, and Traffic. I have carefully read and edited the following scientific manuscript and am of the opinion that it is now written to the highest standards of scientific English”. We resubmitted the edited manuscript directly without any alteration. Still, the manuscript was criticized for bad English by one of the 2nd-round reviewers (and agreed by one associated editor). In the denial decision letter, the chief editor quoted the reviewer’s comment as “The paper is also still difficult to read despite some improvements in the writing.” When I argued with the chief editor on this, he told me that the language quality is not limited to using correct words, but also includes style of writing <<Sorry I could not find the original answer of the chief editor to my rebut but his meaning is just like this>>. When I fed result and my suspicion of Language/institution Discrimination back to the Australian faculty, he wrote this: “I think you may be right regarding the discrimination. When I was working in Singapore even British experts who submitted manuscripts to international journals from Singapore (with coauthors with Asian names) were asked to have their manuscripts edited for proper English!”<<personal communications>>.
Another two examples happed with our manuscripts that were edited by a company recommended by many journals including the journal we aimed at. However, in both cases, one of the three reviewers criticized the manuscripts for bad English. Then the company had to re-do the editing for us for free. Luckily enough, these two manuscripts were finally accepted for publication.
Now I routinely have all of my manuscripts edited by native English speaking friends or professional companies like Scribendi, or American Journal Experts. When I studied the changes made by the editors on my manuscripts, I noticed that the biggest problems for my writing include using long sentences, misusing plural (is vs are, was vs were, has vs have, etc), article (a, the), present or past tense (is vs was, show vs showed, etc). Frankly speaking, for many times, I did not see how one change improve the language. Last month one journal reviewer even criticized our manuscript by saying “The English is far from perfect and should be thoroughly revised”. In fact most parts of that manuscript was first edited by the professional company and later we just added several sentences before submission. I just wanted to know, if the staff of a professional English editing company recommended by many journals do not speak good enough English, then who on the world speaks PERFECT English and can help us with my scientific manuscript. Or, if the journal editors also think the company staff do not improved the language of a manuscript to an accepted level, then why should the journal recommend such a company for language editing?
When I shared my frustration with a scientist originally from Italy who has been in USA for over 10 years and is now an assistant professor in an American university, he said he often encountered this problem too, and he thought this happened with him only because he has a typical non-English name. He even joked that if I would like to change my name (Yiqiang Wang) into Frank Clinton I would never have that trouble again. But according to the Australian faculty’s experience in Singapore, this might not be enough, since institute discrimination might also exist.
Promoted by these cases, I decided to conduct the current survey to see whether Language/Institution Discrimination or Discrimination In Name of Language (again, LID/DINOL) does exist in the scientific publication society and, if yes, to what extent. To ensure the coverage and reliability of the conclusion of this survey, I am sending this invitation to as many scientists from as many countries as possible.
According to test by my colleagues (who also use English as second language), finishing this survey takes about 12 minutes. Yes, about 12 minutes from you will contribute to making our academy society more healthier. The survey will close on December 9, 2012. Please do kindly find time to finish it early.
SORRY THAT I COULD NOT PROVIDE YOU ANY COMPANSATION FOR YOUR TIME TO READ AND TAKE THE SURVEY. BUT A HEALTHIER AND FAIR PUBLICATION SYSTEM WILL BE BENEFITIAL TO THE WHOLE SOCIETY. YOU MAY REQUEST THE FINAL RESULTS OF THIS SURVEY, OR THE PUBLISED COPY OF THE PAPER BASED ON THIS SURVEY—IF YOU WILL INDICATE “YES” BY LEAVING YOUR EMAIL IN THE LAST QUESTION OF THIS SURVEY.
If you agree to take the survey, please click the linkage below. In case the superlink does not work in your computer, please copy it and paste it in your browser address.
If you could not help us on this, I thank you for reading my message and wish you all the best.
Many thanks for your help.
Yiqiang Wang, MD, PhD
Senior Investigator, Shandong Academy of Medical Science, Shandong, China
Taishan Scholar Professorship, Qingdao University, Shandong, China
5 Yanerdao Road, Qingdao, 266071, China
(I used to work in the University of Iowa for 4.5 years as a postdoctoral fellow and Assistant Research Scientist respectively, so my uiowa.edu email account still works in case you want to contact me but your institutional host server does not allow commercial servers)