Friday, February 01, 2008

RSL: the Blog

Well, things are coming along nicely here at RSL. As the readership of this blog expands (and will soon include a YouTube audience!), it may be useful to recap what I think I'm doing here.

Research as a Second Language is a competence-building initiative at the Doctoral School on Knowledge and Management at the Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy of the Copenhagen Business School. Its aim is to support the efforts of PhD students to develop their ability to publish the results of their research internationally. In practice, this of course means helping them to improve their written academic English. I run courses and workshops for them to that end, and provide continuous, individual feed-back on their written work.

My own training, however, is not as an English teacher. My masters thesis was about the philosophy of scientific explanation and my PhD was on the problem of knowledge and power. Today, I consider myself a practicing social epistemologist. Over the past ten years, the work of Steve Fuller has had a strong formative influence on my work and I was proud to have him serve on my doctoral committee. I call myself a practicing social epistemologist because I don't hold an academic post. This means that I am not burdened by either teaching or research responsibilities and can devote all my time to helping others meet theirs.

RSL occupies about half my time here at the department. The other half of my time as Resident Writing Consultant goes to the full-time academic staff of the department. Here I am basically an in-house editor and proof-reader. My function is to support the researchers' attempts to get their research published in international peer-reviewed journals.

In both jobs I spend a substantial amount of my time correcting grammar and style and I have posted basic grammar instructions to this blog in the past. A number of other concerns, however, have also come up in the course of my work. There are some general normative questions, for example, related to the pressure to get your work into peer-reviewed journals. This is the now familiar "publish or perish" issue. In a continental European context, meanwhile, there is the more specific concern about the Anglo-Americanization of academic discourse. For perhaps obvious reasons, "international publication" means publishing in English and this constitutes a new crisis of the European sciences (to steal a phrase from Husserl).

I have also come to appreciate the importance of the writing process. Your writing is most likely to improve if your process is calm and regular, and includes a great deal of rereading and rewriting. Some of my thoughts here at RSL have accordingly been about how to organize your academic practice to ensure that the writing you need to do actually gets done, and gets done well.

Finally, I have become increasingly concerned with the state of scholarship in, especially, the management sciences. There seems to be a real need to foreground basic skills like careful reading, correct citation, and clear thinking. Actually, I think the problems here follow from the first two concerns: working under intense pressure and increasingly complex conditions, academic writers are not encouraged to engage in careful scholarship. While this may explain things for the time being, it will not do as a justification over the long term.

RSL intends to be part of the solution to the problem of academic writing. Everyone is welcome to participate in the discussion. You can always post a comment below to get things going, or you can send me an email by following the link in the sidebar to my departmental homepage.

No comments: