Scientists who are not fluent in English face challenges in getting published in prestigious journals, resulting in a collective loss for everyone.

Scientists who are not fluent in English face challenges in getting published in prestigious journals, resulting in a collective loss for everyone.

The dominance of the English language in global scientific communication presents challenges for scholars from non-English speaking regions. They must decide whether to publish in English for global visibility or in their native language to make their work accessible locally. However, publishing in English requires more time and effort for non-native English speakers compared to their English-speaking peers.

Academic publishers play a crucial role in facilitating or hindering the participation of a multilingual scientific community. A study of 736 journals in the biological sciences found that the majority of publishers are making minimal efforts to overcome language barriers. Only a small percentage of journals allow papers to be published in multiple languages simultaneously or provide machine translation tools. Additionally, few journals explicitly state that they value submissions from authors with diverse linguistic backgrounds or provide author guidelines in multiple languages.

To ensure that published research benefits from contributions by scholars worldwide, journals should allow or encourage the citation of non-English literature. Measures such as providing English-language editing services and educating reviewers and editors about language barriers can also promote fairness in assessing manuscripts from non-native English speakers. However, these measures are not widely implemented by journals.

The study also identified two influences on a journal’s adoption of linguistically inclusive policies. Journals with higher impact factors tend to have less-inclusive policies, possibly because they primarily target English-proficient authors and readers. On the other hand, journals owned by scientific societies tend to adopt more inclusive policies, as these societies have a mandate to foster diverse communities.

Open access journals and journals with more diverse editorial boards were not found to be more likely to adopt inclusive linguistic policies. The lack of influence of linguistically diverse board members is puzzling and may be due to editors not advocating for non-native English speaking authors or editorial boards having limited power in defining policies.

Language barriers hinder knowledge sharing and contribute to geographic divides. Addressing these barriers in academic publishing is crucial for effectively addressing regional and global issues. In addition to the policies examined in the study, there are other actions that journals can take to support scientists from non-English speaking backgrounds, such as using artificial intelligence tools and re-negotiating copyrights to authorize translations.

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