EAP in a scientific revolution

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Science – natural, social, pure, and applied – is undergoing a Kuhnian revolution (Nosek et al., 2018; Christensen et al., 2020). This “open science” paradigm shift promotes greater transparency and reproducibility, with changes to data collection, reporting, evaluation, and the rest of the scientific process (Munafo et al., 2017). EAP and science are interdependent – most EAP students worldwide likely to be social or natural science students, and most scientists former or current EAP students. As science changes, this paper considers how EAP might also change in response.
While EAP is traditionally corpus-driven and descriptivist (Ding & Bruce, 2017), in a time of changing norms, when much literature has been exposed as likely false (Ioannidis, 2005) or involving “questionable research practices”, a more prescriptivist EAP is also needed. These prescriptions should derive from principles valued in the scientific disciplines: classic Baconian and Mertonian norms, or 21st-century updates (e.g. Nosek, 2019).
This shift, from description of disciplinary pasts, to prescription inspired by disciplinary goals, implies many practical changes for EAP. Disciplinary “controlled vocabularies” can be taught, such as engineering’s IEEE Thesaurus, and discourse teaching can move on from IMRAD to more detailed formats such as APA’s Journal Article Reporting Standards or the EQUATOR guidelines. This standardisation of vocabulary and discourse benefits both writing and literature search (Christensen et al., 2019). Newly popular genres such as Registered Reports should be taught in EAP, alongside new scientific writing applications like Sci-Note and Writefull. Non-linguistic content (e.g. heat maps and directed acyclic graphs) increasingly features in scientific communication, and so should feature more in EAP, dual coding known to communicate more effectively than words alone (Clark & Paivio, 1991). Students would learn to avoid “spin” and overstatement (Gerritts et al., 2019) and focus instead on empirical and methodological detail. Promoting transparency, learners would upload their dissertations and related data-sets to open repositories like Thesis Commons, and use such repositories for literature search, in addition to books and journals. Implementing ELF norms in teaching and assessment, we should become more specific about which linguistic features truly influence intelligibility for global scientific audiences, so that EAP practice can catch up with what already happens in much of science (Rozycki & Johnson, 2013).
These practices and more are explored, to align with and further ongoing reforms for more open, reproducible science, benefitting both our students and the society they will impact in future.

This paper informs and responds to an influential, growing trend in higher education – the scientific reforms provoked by the “reproducibility crisis” and often termed “open science”. Open science reforms have been covered in almost every field of natural and social science over the past ten years, describing how academic practice can change to better achieve science’s mission in the 21st century. However, consideration of how scientific communication can evolve to meet these goals has been limited, and conducted outside of EAP, such as the chapter on reporting standards in Christensen et al. (2019). This paper describes how EAP pedagogy can develop to both respond to and contribute to this trend. Practical changes to pedagogy and curriculum design are described, and linked to the underlying theories behind the movement – greater transparency, greater reproducibility of research and research findings, and access by a broader population. It is suggested that a new understanding of EAP, aligned with prescribed disciplinary goals rather than only following past disciplinary practice, can benefit science students and researchers in the 2020s onwards. While the application is most direct in English for research publication purposes and EAP at graduate level, the open science shift is extending down to first-year undergraduates, so it is hoped the paper has broad application across university EAP.

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Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021
EventBALEAP Biennial Conference 2021: Exploring pedagogical approaches in EAP - University of Glasgow, Glasgow, United Kingdom
Duration: 6 Apr 202110 Apr 2021


ConferenceBALEAP Biennial Conference 2021
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • EAP


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