A new study finds that despite English being considered the common language of global science, over 30 percent of new scientific reports are published other languages due to which many major findings have been overlooked.
The international community missing important science as language hinders new findings getting through to practitioners in the field, said researchers from the University of Cambridge in the England.
They argue that whenever science is only published in one language, including solely in English, barriers to the transfer of knowledge are created.
"While we recognise the importance of a lingua franca and the contribution of English to science, the scientific community should not assume that all important information is published in English," said Dr Tatsuya Amano.
"Language barriers continue to impede the global compilation and application of scientific knowledge," Amano added.
As part of the study, published in the journal PLOS Biology, those in charge of Spain's protected natural areas were surveyed. Over half the respondents identified language as an obstacle to using the latest science for habitat management.
The Cambridge team also conducted a litmus test of language use in science.
They surveyed the web platform Google Scholar - one of the largest public repositories of scientific documents - in a total of 16 languages for studies relating to biodiversity conservation published during a single year, 2014.
Of the over 75,000 documents, including journal articles, books and theses, some 35.6 percent were not in English. Of these, the majority was in Spanish (12.6 percent) or Portuguese (10.3 percent). Simplified Chinese made up six percent and three percent were in French.
The researchers also found thousands of newly published conservation science documents in other languages, including several hundred each in Italian, German, Japanese, Korean and Swedish.
Random sampling showed that, on average, only around half of non-English documents also included titles or abstracts in English. This means that around 13,000 documents on conservation science published in 2014 are unsearchable using English keywords.
"Scientific knowledge generated in the field by non-native English speakers is inevitably under-represented, particularly in the dominant English-language academic journals. This potentially renders local and indigenous knowledge unavailable in English," said lead author Amano.
"I believe the scientific community needs to start seriously tackling this issue," Amano noted.
"We should see this as an opportunity as well as a challenge. Overcoming language barriers can help us achieve less biased knowledge and enhance the application of science globally," Amano concluded....