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Translating & publishing scientific research

Should you publish your research in English?

In the 21st century, English is, almost exclusively, the language of science. As a result, the majority of scientific research — over 90% — is published in English. In many non-English speaking countries, the number of papers published in English vastly outnumbers the number of publications in the native language. A recent study led by Tatsuya Amano, a researcher at the University of Queensland, has tried to quantify the disadvantage this poses to scientists and researchers publishing scientific research, who are not native English speakers.

The study surveyed 908 environmental scientists, from eight countries, to assess the effort required to carry out various tasks in English. The study found that non-native speakers need twice as much time to read and write documents and to prepare presentations. In addition, researchers whose native language is not english are 2.5 times more likely to be rejected, and 12.5 times more likely to receive a review request.

Furthermore, the study stresses that these disadvantages disproportionately affect those in the early stages of their careers and from low-income countries; and proposes that more help should be provided from supervisors, as well as financial support where appropriate.

Amano himself confesses to having been surprised by the results. “As a non-native English speaker, I’ve experienced these struggles firsthand and knew they were common problems among us non-native English speakers,” he says, “but I didn’t realize how big each individual hurdle was compared to native English speakers.” Some scientists have confessed that they have stopped attending and presenting at conferences due to language discomfort.

The coordinator of the Social Sciences Doctorate program at the Faculty of Communication and Documentation of the University of Granada (UGR), Evaristo Jiménez-Contreras, has a football metaphor that explains the situation very well. “We are the team that always plays away from home,” he says. “I studied English all my life and I never mastered it. If I have to give a lecture in English, I go with both hands tied behind my back.”

🔹 Rejections
Researchers whose native language is not english are 2,5 times more likely to be rejected, and

12.5 times more likely to receive a review request.

🔹 Reading & Writing
Non-native speakers need twice as much time to read and write documents and prepare presentations.

In more than 75% of their jobs, non-natives ask for help with English for their studies.

🔹 Publications
Worldwide, over 90% of scientific research is published in English.

The impact of English as a lingua franca

There are benefits to an established lingua franca. Some highlight the fact that it facilitates the spread of information and research. If a paper is published in the ‘common language of science’, it is more likely to get noticed. It means that more people are going to read it and the author is more likely to get recognition. However, having one common language of science creates a bias. For instance, it can lead to works written in other languages being overlooked. Unfortunately, some people often tend to assume that all the important information is in English. 

Naturally those funding research want to see it published in high-impact journals where it can get maximum exposure — always in English. This has a knock on effect: research can have less impact in the community where it was carried out. Put simply, it makes little sense to publish a work on the future of the Amazon if it cannot be read in Spanish and Portuguese — the language of the affected communities. Publication in English can even be a barrier to students who may need to read the work, or even for investment.

However, in the end, having a lingua franca for scientific research makes practical sense. Publishing scientific research solely in English is faster and more cost-effective. Translating the highly technical and precise language of science into many different languages would be extremely time- and cost-intensive.

That said, Amano concludes “Anyone anywhere in the world should be able to participate in science and contribute to the accumulation of humanity’s knowledge.” 

Academic translation, editing and review

Excellent academic writing is often about more than compelling content. When it comes to publishing scientific research, it’s vital that you communicate your ideas in a clear, eloquent, concise, and—perhaps above all—consistent style. Quality translation is paramount when translating your academic work, or when writing in a language you do not fully master.

Should I use in-text parenthetical citation or footnote citation? Should I use the serial comma? How can I make sure that all my research groups’ publications are consistent in their language, spelling, format, and style? Academic writers, translators, and editors are constantly confronted with these types of questions.

Style guides consist of guidelines on everything from punctuation to reference style to spelling to syntax. They help writers produce publications with a coherent style that makes the content easier to read and understand. 

Along with hard copies, most style guides offer a complete online edition as well as blog posts, quick citation guides, and forums where users can share and discuss their doubts. Furthermore, academic style guides are continually updated to accommodate changes in usage and to address new issues concerning emerging types of media and technology.

Here at Quicksilver Translate, we have translators and editors specialized in academic writing in a variety of fields, with practical experience at the master’s and doctoral level. As well as the expertise and resources needed to apply any type of academic style and/or research and format references. Contact us by email at

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