Languages Are Still a Major Barrier to Global Science

by Tatsuya Amano, Juan P. González-Varo, William J. Sutherland
PLoS Biol 14(12): e2000933 – Published: December 29, 2016

8 pp. 2.5 MB
http://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article/file?
id=10.1371/journal.pbio.2000933&type=printable

While it is recognized that language can pose a barrier to the transfer of scientific knowledge, the convergence on English as the global language of science may suggest that this problem has been resolved. However, this survey searching Google Scholar in 16 languages revealed that 35.6% of 75,513 scientific documents on biodiversity conservation published in 2014 were not in English. Ignoring such non-English knowledge can cause biases in our understanding of study systems. Furthermore, as publication in English has become prevalent, scientific knowledge is often unavailable in local languages. The authors urge scientific communities to make a more concerted effort to tackle this problem and propose potential approaches both for compiling non-English scientific knowledge effectively and for enhancing the multilingualization of new and existing knowledge available only in English for the users of such knowledge.

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