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Question: Can around be used to mean concerning?

Background: As an academic editor, I have come across the usage of around as in concerning or about (i.e., having to do with) in numerous PhD dissertations. Around in this sense often collocates with research, as in the contrived example:

Research around this topic has yet to yield any useful insights.

I haven't been able to find any discussions dealing with this usage, but I have found that:

  • non-spacial definitions of around do not appear to cover any meaning similar to concerning or about (in the sense of concerning) (e.g., Merriam-Webster)
  • existing discussions on the usage of around as in about deals with meaning similar to approximately (e.g., Garner's Modern American Usage)
  • This list of synonyms for concerning includes about, but not around.

I'm thinking that because about and around are interchangeable or vary regionally when used to mean approximately, writers transfer this interchangeability to other meanings. In this case, I mean that the meaning of about that denotes relevance is being transferred (inappropriately) to around.

Because of all this, I have, in every instance, changed around to concerning, about, on, etc, but, I'd love confirmation that this is a necessary change. Can anyone point me to any resources that validate this usage of around?

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  • It's easier to understand if you read "around" to mean "in the area of". – Hot Licks Oct 22 '16 at 20:55
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You don't need to change it. The OED's definition for around includes

  1. In reference or relation to; concerning, about.

This usage is attested back to the late nineteenth century:

1897 Punch 29 May 263/3 Essence of Parliament... Useful, but not precisely alluring, debate around Employers' Liability Bill.

("around, adv. and prep." Definition B.11. OED Online. Oxford University Press, September 2016. Web. 10 September 2016.)

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Around is often used that way but your sources seem correct and strictly it seems to me ambiguous.

Research around this topic… seems to me to convey on the periphery rather than directly concerning.

Research about might be a little less tenuous.

Research into or on should be much more clear.

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I have heard this primarily used by businesspeople, beginning in early 2007; it therefore has always sounded like pretentious business jargon to me. There are certainly better words: regarding, concerning, related to, etc. The intended word often seems to be "surrounding."

  • Yeah, definitely Un-American: For both these reasons, discussions around the resolution demand flesh thinking. 1967 – Hot Licks May 27 '17 at 0:42
  • Maybe the users are thinking of "dancing around an issue", and thus "research around" with the same focus. – Xanne May 27 '17 at 5:52

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