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Christmas –time Simultaneous Submission of Multiple Articles

And then there was that huge package for me the day before Christmas. Since it wouldn’t fit into the pigeonhole for faculty mail, the office staff had placed the package outside the mailbox. My first thought was that this was a nice Christmas surprise from someone. A closer look at the label showed that it had been addressed to the editor of TQ and that it came from China. I then thought that it must be from a gratified author whose work I had shepherded into print. I had to revise this assumption as I couldn’t identify the name from our recently published authors. Guided by the stereotype that Asians are immensely grateful people, I then thought that the package was possibly from a rejected author who still wanted to thank me for the time I had put into reviewing his/her submission and providing valuable suggestions. With mounting curiosity, I heaved the package away from the prying eyes of jealous colleagues, shut my office door, and exerted myself on opening the box.

What tumbled out of the package were reams of typed paper. When I sorted out everything I counted three manuscript submissions, with three copies of each article, with their own set of cover letter, abstract, and author information. I read the cover letter repeatedly and confirmed my worst fear—yes, it was all by the same author.

This is an increasingly common phenomenon I see in academic publishing these days—an author making three articles for publication in one submission—and so far it has come to me mostly from China. It was not the stress of reviewing the increasing number of manuscripts that bothered me. From 94 submissions in 2004, the final year of the previous editor of TQ, the submission rate has increased to an annual average of 250 during my term. And there wasn’t anything in our guidelines that prevented authors from making multiple submissions at the same time—unlike the policy against submitting the same article to multiple journals. What troubled me were the implications for the composing process of the author and the quality of the submission when someone is under pressure to send three articles in one envelope. Or was academic publishing becoming similar to lottery—you buy multiple tickets in the hope that one will hit the jackpot?

After inquiring from friends in China, I understand that the motivation for this practice is far more complicated. I understand that many academic communities in the East are putting pressure on their scholars to get published in journals with high impact factor in order to get tenured or promoted. According to some accounts, even graduate students in China are expected to publish a couple of refereed articles in order to earn their doctorate. The bug of corporatization, measurement, and productivity has bitten administrators and policy makers in the East. Such institutional expectations might not sound surprising to European or American scholarly communities. Publish or perish has been the name of the game for a long time in the West. In the East, we must consider these publishing expectations in the light of the working conditions of local scholars. These scholars are expected to do a lot of teaching, far more than it is expected of tenure line faculty members in USA. They are not given time off for research or writing in many institutions. The scholars have to find the time themselves, after they take care of teaching and service. The limited library facilities, with the latest books missing and a smaller range of journals subscribed to, prevent local scholars from keeping up with the theoretical paradigms or research trends in the West. There are other personal and domestic pressures they have to negotiate before they can invest their time and resources on publishing. Many of them have to supplement their limited salary by doing other jobs to support their families. Local scholars also lack the support system and peer circles that can review or edit their work before submission. Need we mention the linguistic challenges involved in having to publish in English in the high impact journals (which for some strange reasons are all published in English)? Such are the problems these authors are expected to deal with in order to satisfy their institutional expectations.

A local scholar now teaching in Singapore (who likes to remain anonymous) wrote to me: “Almost all universities in Mainland China set down a specified number of publications as a precondition for promotion to an associate professorship or full professorship. I learned from a student of mine in China that at his university, the required number for promotion to associate professionship is 10 journal papers. In addition to quantity, there are also requirements about the quality of publications. . . One of my colleagues told me that his former university in China give 5 times more reward points to a paper published in a high-impact overseas journal than one published in a "national-level" domestic journal. I have also heard unverified stories that some Chinese universities give 10,000 reminbi yun per article to their faculty who publish in SCI and SSCI journals. The deputy dean of the English Language and LIterature College of another Chinese university told me that the rate at his university is 3,000 yun per article. Given such financial rewards, it is little wonder submissions from China to international journals have greatly increased in recent years.”

Matters are compounded by the lack of information on the publishing process. Editorial board member, Judy Chen, writes from Taiwan: “Many authors do not understand what the publishing effort involves, what the submissions require, what the process is, and even what the APA Guidelines are. For example, it is normal that in Taiwan and China student researchers do not have an APA manual. The reason for this is that there is an informal translation to Chinese of the manual widely available on the Web. When asked, students respond they DO have it, but what they mean is the online version in Chinese. And they often are not aware there is such a thing in English and how detailed it is. Of course the online version is full of errors and omissions, and does not even begin to include the style guidelines of the real APA book (such as here http://www1.mcu.edu.tw/Apps/SB/data/20/APA.pdf).”

Shouldn’t we consider other more reasonable—and appropriate—bench marks for productivity in the East then? Why not give more credit for authors who publish in local journals? Wouldn’t knowledge about local education or linguistic realities be more relevant to local teachers, policy makers, and community members? And why overlook semi-scholarly and popular publications as a forum for one’s research? Is publishing in a high impact journal located in an English-speaking country the sole standard for one’s scholarly worth? Further, should a published article be always the measure of one’s productivity? What about giving more credit for teaching and knowledge dissemination in oral genres and other media forms in one’s own community?

As a well-published Turkish scholar once put it to me: “It’s a dog eat dog world out there in the West, as American and European scholars try to cope with the publish or perish culture in their own institutions. How can one expect us from the periphery to enter into that competition and satisfy the newly formulated academic policies in our communities?”

How indeed? And who is there to think of a poor author toiling during the year-end holiday season finalizing three 30-page articles for submission to the same journal? What pressure to publish? How realistic the expectation? And at what cost?


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Comments (13)

In Taiwan, the rewards are also present, with an SSCI worth approximately 4 to 6 more than the RMB reward you mentioned. Not only that, research grants are dependent on such ranked publications.

To be fair, this is really just as true inside the US as outside, but for me, the worst part of this is the pressure it puts on research frames. Because our US colleagues face this issue also, they are much less open to research (no matter where it is from) that is well grounded in local issues. Yet, it is just such research TESOL is in need of.

Not just TESOL, business journals have the same problem. At a time of globalization, what we think of as the large conglomerate forces in the West are actually facing very difficult challenges in overseas markets, yet they remain nearly totally closed to localized research that shows what adjustments need to be made for local consumers (the so called glocal).

In my opinion, we need a shift of values within the mainstream of journal publishing (the editors, mostly located in the US) but also at the outside establishments where the local research is being done. Editors really need to step up and see clearly that the future is global, but that means many locals (far away and unfamiliar locals) and researchers need to work up slowly with local publications and not expect to publish in those few ranked journals from the start! Build up solid research, over years, if not decades. This avoids the trap of simply adopting the Western assumptions to make editors happy and get things done fast. This is a shift TESOL Q has undertaken under your leadership, and I hope other journals follow.

Thanks for the suggestions. I am curious about the type of topics that are critical for local communities but not addressed in Western journals. We should look out for submissions of this nature. Please give us some examples of such topics.

Also, if you can give us some names of East Asia-based journals published in English on applied linguistics and TESOL, we can suggest them for scholars who mail us multiple articles.

Lofton Alley:

I am working as a faculty member at a university in mainland China and the real problem you are struggling with is the paradigmatic differences between the educational systems. This comment section is not the place to discuss in depth the differences (maybe I should try a few articles on the subject delivered to your desk in bulk??) but even after eight years teaching in Asia I am still sometimes dumbfounded by the facts here in China (or any other Asian country I have worked in for that matter).

Your view of the problem is much too occicentric to begin to understand that merely changing the publishing industry in the west, (or the standards in the west, or anything within your world,) will only mean that there will be an adaptation here in Asia that will try to circumvent your intentions and achieve their intentions. The intentions here are also not in line with your views of what they must be. The faculty here are fully acculturated to the Asian way, they don't want whatever change you might think would be better: especially since it would entail new and complex difficulties in their life.

I suggest before considering possible changes in this to discuss thoroughly with a returned Chinese faculty member (there are quite a few these days, I have a neighbor who finished his PhD at Brown and did a few years of post-doc at UC Berkeley) and ask them what they think. I think their answers would have real value and deeper understanding than anything I, or any other westerner, could think of.

Well said Lofton. Suresh, may I suggest the title for this entry should be, "When Research Paradigms Collide."

Suresh Canagarajah:

Thanks for your suggestions, Clyde and Lofton. But "When Research Paradigms Collide" is the title for this whole blog. My intention is to break our complacency about academic publishing and create a better awareness of the academic culture in different communities. I do hope local scholars will weigh in on this subject.


I'm from China and now doing my PhD in the U.S. Here is how I understand the situation based on my experiences of the two worlds.

It is true that there is very strong pressure upon young scholars on publications. Two levels of journal publications are valued. Foreign journals, esp. SSCI indexed journals are most highly valued, but these are very seldom achieved. If a young scholar has some SSCI publications, he/she will easily get promotion and financial acknowledgement. (The reward that Suresh mentioned is true, and commonly practiced in universities.) However, I have to say it's so hard for a Chinese scholar to publish in a SSCI journal, because the focus and tradition of Chinese doctoral training and academia are very different from what is going on in the western countries. In such situations, most scholars would try Chinese-based journals. In the field of TESOL and applied Linguistics, there is a list of about 13-20 journals, which are unanimously stipulated as key journals. These journals are the hottest battle field for Chinese scholars working in the field. The standards and topics of publications on these journals are very localized, and determined by the academia in China. I have a small anecdote to share here. After having been admitted into the program at Penn State, I talked to an established professor in CHina. He suggested that if I get a PHD in the U.S. I had better not come back to China to work, because as an outsider of China academia, my research won't be easily accepted if I go back to China. Although it sounded sad, it has been true in China.

2. Personally, I think multi-submission won't be a problem if the submissions are really of good quality. I think it's undeniable the author has devoted much time and energy on writing those, because writing in English alone is already an achievement back in China, for the Chinese-based journals are published in Chinese. Still, due to the discrepancy of research interests, research approach, and research atmosphere, the articles may not be desired by the western readers. I think it shows the different orientations and practices in western countries and in China.

3. I don't have a good solution to this, but I think it is a fact. It's not saying that one side should accommodate the other, because differences aren't easy to reconcile, and maybe don't have to be reconciled in the first place. But from time to time, there are good articles getting published in both China and western countries. The article by Gao Yihong, et al published on TQ March 2007 is an example. Gao's study on student motivation has been widely published in several Chinese key journals, and here their study got published in TQ too, which proves a really high standard of the research. I think what we want to see more is work like this, isn't it?

Yongyan Li:

Suresh hopes to know “some names of East Asia-based journals published in English on applied linguistics and TESOL”, so that they can suggest these to scholars who mail them multiple articles.

The "journal" in China that fits into the named category is Teaching English in China (TEIC), which is the Journal of China English Language Education Association (CELEA). It's published by Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press (Beijing) (with sponsorship of the Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy, as I understand from the cover the journal). One can access the webpage of CELEA first (http://www.elt-china.org/) and from there link to the relevant information on the journal (I have always had problem trying to locate a homepage of the journal), such as the contents of the current and back issues.

I'd also like to mention Review of Applied Linguistics in China (RALC). Jun Liu is the editor of this English-language semiannual publication, which was launched in 2005 by the English Language Center at Shantou University (China) and is published by Higher Education Press (Beijing). I personally believe Jun Liu sets a very high standard for the papers published in RALC. To quote from its Inaugural Editorial: “Peer-refereed, RALC is dedicated to classroom-oriented research in English language learning and teaching including the exploration of vital issues in the teaching English in China and the learning and use of English by Chinese speakers world wide. This theory-driven, research-based, and practice-oriented publication also strives to provide a vibrant interactive forum for researchers and practitioners at al levels of instruction in the fields of TESOL and Applied Linguistics. It is open to contributors from around the globe with experience researching or teaching in China or with students whose first language is Chinese.”

US-China Foreign Language is a monthly I recently discovered. I saw two issues of it, one entirely in English, and the other entirely in Chinese. The cover of the two issues that I have says “Bridge between China and USA”, “Published in Greater New York City, Distributed to All over the World”, and “All papers can be searched by the website: Http://www.linguist.org.cn”. It might be an appropriate outlet – apart from TEIC in particular – for some of the articles that Suresh receives from China!

Shirley Gao:

I am a University English teacher with over 19 teachering and reserch experiences in China, now I am studying in University of Nottingham to be equipped with my professional research knowledge and ability. After reading this article suggested by my good friend Duff, I really understand Suresh's questioning and worrying as an editor and the pressing and desirable feelings of that Chinese scholar as an Author.

Here I just give my comments on that author's behaviour from his perspective on my understanding as a Chinese. In Chinese universities, based on some policies, one's salary, working equipment and conditions, and housing distribution are very closely related to one's rank or professional status and admistrative positions. So if teachers want to get better life and position, he/she firstly tries to be promoted as lecturer, associate professor and professor. To this end, he/she would make great efforts to write articles favorabley published in foreign journals which will be valued and outstanding to the others. It is the only way to beat the others in this very competitive academia, whilst he/she will get good reputation and rewards as his/her articles contribute to advance the ranking of his/her university in Chinese Universities. If lucky, he/she will be promoted to the higher postion in his/her departments. That is why many Chinese scholars like to submit to the foreign journals.

Why this author submit 3 articles to the same journal? To my knowledge, I don't think his behavior kind of lottery. There are 3 reasons for it. Firstly, it is evident that the requirements from foreign journals are much higher than local ones, so he does not hold hihger hope to get one of them published. Instead, he wants to get some good suggestions on these 3 articles, if available, then pubishing them in local ones is a piece of cake. Secondly, quite number of Chinese scholars (excluding scholars study abroad) don't know that research is kind of to contribute to the social knowledge, they have not very clear awarenss or definition of research, but clear picture of releasing journal aricles bringing a lot of advantages in their lives. Finally, policy-maker is just to give some rules on teachers for their promotion but not make any plans and training program to train teaching-based teachers any research methodology. Therefore, teachers have not gotten chance to get helpful ideas from xpert or have not gotten good habit to let their articles be reviewed by their collegues to gain some brilliant ideas.

What is the best way to get articles published smoothly and quickly, who is the ideal reviewer? The answer is foreign journals as these journals will provide very detailed and helpful suggestions for their articles. It is a very good way to promote their academic knowledge instantly. They don't hold any higher expectation to be published in foreign journals but excellent suggestions on their articles which they will not get from local journals. So I think the purpose of submitting 3 articles most likely is to get good and helpful ideas. It is a wise and quick way to get articles published.

These are just my personal opinions on it as concrete requirements for promotion in academia vary from northen and southen universities in China.

Suresh Canagarajah:

Thanks for throwing more light on the Chinese academic situation. You make a good point when you note that local scholars sometimes send articles to get quality feedback from reviewers. I used to do that when I submitted articles from my native Sri Lanka before I moved to the US. What I valued (sometimes more than getting the article accepted!) was the commentary from reviewers. Since I didn't have a network of colleagues who had the time or competence to read my articles, I had to resort to getting feedback from journal reviewers.

Nancy Ackles:

I'm very pleased that Suresh has started this blog. I was able to direct an Albanian friend to it, and he found it very encouraging to learn that scholars in other countries faced problems so very similar to his own. The blog seems to have given him the encouragement he needed to pursue creating a webpage or email discussion list where Albanian and regional teachers can share material from local experience and needs.

Bill Snyder:

I'm the editor of Korea TESOL Journal, and would just like to put in a plug for our journal as another "East Asia-based journal, publishing in English on applied Linguistics and TESOL." I am moving the journal to a twice a year publishing schedule this year, which will increase the number of articles put out. Submissions can be sent to .

At the same time, I am basically it, managerially, and have to deal with everything by myself. And because I do teach one of those heavy loads you mention (16 hours last term, part of which was supervising 37 projects in a research methods class), I can't turn things over as fast as I would like, nor can I offer detailed feedback on every article I reject before sending to reviewers. It's just not possible. Articles that are better prepared in advance will get more feedback if I have to reject. But those articles are also usually the ones that I can send to reviewers.

There are three other Korea-based journals that I can mention:

English Language Teaching (click 'PERIODICALS' at www.pketa.org)

English Teaching (click 'PUBLICATIONS' and 'PAPER SUBMISSION' at www.kate.or.kr)

Korean Journal of Applied Linguistics (click 'ALAK PUBLICATIONS' at www.alak.or.kr)

All of these journals charge an editing fee for submissions, I believe. This is a not uncommon practice in Asia, I understand. My journal does not.

I will likely be at the editors' meeting at TESOL again this year; I'm still working out my schedule. But I'll hope to see you there, Suresh.


To follow up on an earlier post of mine, I should mention two other important "East Asia-based journals published in English on applied linguistics and TESOL". 1) Asian Journal of English Language Teaching (AJELT), published by the Chinese University of Hong Kong Press
The journal has been receiving a flood of submissons from Mainland China (according to George Braine); and we do see an increasing number of papers authored by Chinese teacher researchers published in there. 2) RELC Journal, which is based in Singapore.

I would think some authors may even be interested in online journals, such as Asian EFL Journal , and The Internet TESL Journal

I tend to agree with what Jie, Lofton, and Shirley said about the situation in China. But it seems to me encouragement of overseas publication is a relatively recent phenomenon in Chinese universities and with a building drive of Chinese higher education toward 'internationalization', as well as Chinese academics' increasing access to international journals (we'll have to recognize regional differences in this regard in China), I'm afraid TQ and other interntional journals will only receive more and more submissions from China! In the process, Chinese academics do aspire to 'track-connect' with the international scene and contribute to the knowledge-making of their disciplines at an internatinal level.

(In Preview, I found the websites I gave above for the journals disappeared. Sorry!)

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