Acknowledgements & Scholarship

In the past year I have been invited to give two plenary papers, one at the Cutting Edges conference in Canterbury and the other at the EAP in Ireland conference. I was both flattered and surprised to be invited but, most of all, these invitations provoked me into thinking about acknowledgements and subsequently about collaboration and scholarship.

I had received these invitations to speak largely because – I suspect – of the book I had co-authored with Ian Bruce ‘The English for Academic Purposes Practitioner: Operating on the Edge of Academia’. This got me thinking about acknowledging – books are replete with fulsome and heartfelt acknowledgements, yet plenary speakers generally quickly thank the organisers for the invite and then launch into their talks. I wanted to begin my plenaries by acknowledging the contributions of others to my thoughts and ideas. In fact, in many ways its hard (and wrong) to claim ideas as ‘mine’. Ideas, words, papers are imbued with readings, conversations and collaborations with others to such an extent that it is hard to say where an idea emerged.

This post is about those who have contributed to my thinking, directly and indirectly, and finally to suggest that a defining characteristic of scholarship could be an explicit foregrounding – a proper acknowledgement of the fabric of scholarship – of its collaborative nature.

My collaborations with Ian began after the BALEAP conference in Leicester where – spontaneously – I suggested we write a book about the EAP practitioner. Since then we have spoken weekly almost without fail (more than 4 years now) and the book emerged as well as the new book series New Perspectives for English for Academic Purposes  (Bloomsbury). We have given papers together as well as organised and participated in seminars, conferences and other events. Ian has been instrumental in how I think about EAP. Without his diligence, scholarship and generosity my scholarship would be greatly impoverished.

I have been very fortunate at Leeds to have had the support of, firstly, Melinda Whong, and more recently Yolanda Cerdá as director of the Language Centre. They have provided the intellectual and material support necessary to ensure that scholarship can flourish – mine included. It also dispels simplistic myths around avaricious leaders preoccupied by profit rather than being guided by academic values.

At Leeds I have been fortunate to work closely with Bee Bond who has suffered innumerable coffees and chats with me about my latest intellectual preoccupation. I have also, hopefully, provided some help with her scholarship endeavours. The latest of which ‘Making Language Visible in the University English for Academic Purposes and Internationalisation’ will be her first book, to be published in July, and is the fruit of a few years of dedicated scholarship. It is as, if not more, pleasurable to witness others’ successes – this one in particular. I have read the manuscript and its a brilliant read. I have also collaborated with Bee on organising the BALEAP conference (along with others) and a series of ResTES events for BALEAP. We continue to collaborate on an almost daily basis and she has been particularly influential in how I think.

At Leeds I also work with many others including those that run the Language Scholar – an idea I had when I first joined Leeds but one that has been taken up with enthusiasm by others. We co-wrote a scholarship manifesto which I am particularly pleased with (even if it could be improved!).  I am also working with Michelle Evans, a colleague and friend at Leeds, on an edited book on social theory and EAP. There are numerous examples at Leeds of colleagues working together on scholarship. One that stands out is an edited book by colleagues Melinda Whong and Jeanne Godfrey ‘What is Good Academic Writing: Insights into Discipline Specific Student Writing’ (Bloomsbury) which contains chapters written by colleagues at Leeds. For many this is their first published work and will be published this year.

Beyond Leeds, there are many people who have been collaborative and supportive in many ways. I have known Cynthia White for over 15 years and we have maintained contact, friendship and collaboration during these years and her advice and knowledge have been crucial to me. I used to work at the University of Nottingham where, again, I was fortunate to collaborate with excellent colleagues. I would like to highlight ex-colleague Julia Molinari’s brilliant thesis ‘What makes writing academic: an educational and philosophical response.’ It exemplifies original thinking, is a challenging read and will challenge your thoughts about academic writing. I have spent many hours talking with Julia and she has been a constant source of ideas and inspiration.

Steve Kirk has also been more than collegial and supportive over a number of years and I read his thesis ‘Enacting the Curriculum in English for Academic Purposes: A Legitimation Code Theory Analysis’ – the perfect example, alongside Julia, of how practitioners can contribute to knowledge in new and exciting ways. More broadly, the LCT community seem to embody a highly collegial and supportive network and I’m sure that LCT will exert more influence within EAP as publications emerge from Steve and others such as Susie Cowley-Haselden and Laetitia Monbec. Greg Hadley’s landmark publication ‘English for academic purposes in neoliberal universities: A critical grounded theory’ was an inspiration to me and he remains a (distant) colleague and good friend.

Many others have provided me with ideas, support and opportunities. BALEAP has been a source of support too, and recent discussions about online learning have shown how collegial BALEAP can be. Many collaborations cross institutions and continents and forge long-term friendships and productive scholarship. Not forgetting either the many students and colleagues who participate in scholarship projects, giving their time for focus groups, interviews, observations and completing questionnaires. By doing so, students and others are contributing to scholarship and trusting us to conduct scholarship which improves knowledge and education and positively impacts future cohorts of students.

I suppose the point I want to make is that my scholarship – as with so many others too – is deeply indebted to others. Acknowledging this is important, perhaps especially so now as we face a very troubling present and future. It is something to remember, at least for me, if and when a (new) normality returns. What can distinguish scholarship more than anything else is its collegiality, collaboration and generosity.


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