Academic publishing requires linguistically inclusive policies

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Henry Arenas-Castro , Violeta Berdejo-Espinola , Shawan Chowdhury, Argelia Rodríguez-Contreras, Aubrie James, Nussaïbah B. Raja , Emma M Dunne , Sandro Bertolino, Nayara Braga Emidio, Chantelle M. Derez, Szymon Marian Drobniak, Graham R. Fulton, L. Francisco Henao-Diaz, Avneet Kaur, Catherine J. S. Kim, Malgorzata Lagisz, Iliana Medina, Peter Mikula, Vikram P. Narayan, Christopher J. O'Bryan, Rachel Rui Ying Oh, Ekaterina Ovsyanikova, Katharina-Victoria Pérez-Hämmerle, Patrice Pottier , Jennifer S. Powers, Astrid J. Rodriguez-Acevedo, Andes H. Rozak, Pedro H. A. Sena, Nicola J. Sockhill, Anazélia M. Tedesco, Francisco Tiapa-Blanco, Jo-Szu Tsai, Jaramar Villarreal-Rosas, Susana M. Wadgymar, Masato Yamamichi, Tatsuya Amano


Scientific knowledge is produced in multiple languages but is predominantly published in English. This academic publishing practice creates a language barrier to the generation and transfer of scientific knowledge between communities with diverse linguistic backgrounds, hindering the ability of scholars and communities to address global challenges and achieve diversity and equity in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). To overcome those barriers, publishers and journals should provide a fair system that supports non-native English speakers and disseminates knowledge across the globe. We surveyed policies of 736 journals in biological sciences to assess their linguistic inclusivity, identify predictors of inclusivity, and propose actions to overcome language barriers in academic publishing. Our assessment revealed a grim landscape where most journals were making minimal efforts to overcome language barriers in academic publishing. The Impact Factor of journals was negatively associated with the adoption of a number of inclusive policies whereas the ownership by a scientific society tended to have a positive association. Counter to our expectations, the linguistic diversity of editorial boards and the Open Access model did not have a major positive association with the adoption of linguistically inclusive policies. We proposed a set of actions to overcome language barriers in academic publishing, including the revision of exclusionary practices, clear communication of linguistic policies in author guidelines, and renegotiation of power dynamics between publishers and editorial boards. Academic publishing requires a change to support scholars and communities with limited English proficiency and scientific societies are well positioned to lead this cultural shift.



Biology, International and Intercultural Communication, Scholarly Publishing


language barriers, academic publishing, inclusivity, Biological sciences, Society journals


Published: 2023-06-05 08:59

Last Updated: 2023-06-08 16:19

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CC-BY Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International

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Conflict of interest statement:
JSP was editor-in-chief of one of the journals surveyed in this study at the moment of data collection.

Data and Code Availability Statement:
The datasets used in these analyses are archived on Zenodo (DOI 10.5281/zenodo.7828391).