The linguistic barrier of science for no-native english speakers

In recent years, several papers have been published on the challenges faced by no-native English-speaking researchers in their publications in English-language journals. Journals with the highest Impact Factor are in English language, and researchers understand what it means to publish in such journals (1). Beyond prestige and personal satisfaction, this serves to attract new contributions for research, and is directly related with promotion, prestige, and academic positions (2).
In a study published in PLOS Biology in July 2023, a group of authors from various nationalities distributed a questionnaire to students and researchers for data collection, which was then processed in a centralized manner (3). Participants involved researchers from 8 countries, some native English speakers (including some from United Kingdom), and others no-native English speakers. The survey aimed to quantify the effort required by individual researchers to perform 5 types of scientific activities in English and in their first language (reading articles, writing, publishing and dissemination, participating in conferences) and compare the estimated effort among researchers with different linguistic and economic backgrounds.
The authors used the values of English-speaking countries as reference for data processing. The paper had 908 participants with an average age of 39 years (range 18-77 years) and a median research dedication of 13 years. The results are surprising. No-native English speakers take 91% more time to read an article and 51% more time to write one in English. They experienced a rejection rate 2.6 times higher and a revision rate 12.5 times higher.
This is also clearly demonstrated in another study where authors made a randomized control study in which scholars judged the scientific quality of several scientific abstracts (4). Each abstract had two versions with identical scientific content, but the language in one version was conformed to standards for international academic English, and the language in the other version was not (but it was still comprehensible). Scholars may give abstracts lower ratings of scientific quality when the writing does not conform to standards of international academic English; and this leads to rejection of the paper in English-language journals.
These results unequivocally demonstrate that fluent English speaker researches from economically affluent states have several advantages that make them publish more than others in prestigious journals.

Received: Dec 19, 2023
Accepted: Feb 14, 2024
Published: Mar 1, 2024

Table of Contents: Vol. 2, n. 1, March 2024

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