Journal article Open Access

Tapping into non-English-language science for the conservation of global biodiversity

Amano, Tatsuya; Berdejo Espinola, Violeta; Christie, Alec P.; Willott, Kate; Akasaka, Munemitsu; Báldi, András; Berthinussen, Anna; Bertolino, Sandro; Bladon, Andrew J.; Chen, Min; Choi, Chang-Yong; Bou Dagher Kharrat, Magda; de Oliveira, Luis G.; Farhat, Perla; Golivets, Marina; Hidalgo Aranzamendi, Nataly; Jantke, Kerstin; Kajzer-Bonk, Joanna; Kemahlı Aytekin, M. Çisel; Khorozyan, Igor; Kito, Kensuke; Konno, Ko; Lin, Da-Li; Littlewood, Nick; Liu, Yang; Liu, Yifan; Loretto, Matthias-Claudio; Marconi, Valentina; Martin, Philip; Morgan, William H.; Narváez-Gómez, Juan P.; Negret, Pablo Jose; Nourani, Elham; Ochoa Quintero, Jose M.; Ockendon, Nancy; Oh, Rachel Rui Ying; Petrovan, Silviu; Piovezan-Borges, Ana C.; Pollet, Ingrid L.; Ramos, Danielle L.; Reboredo Segovia, Ana L.; Rivera-Villanueva, A. Nayelli; Rocha, Ricardo; Rouyer, Marie-Morgane; Sainsbury, Katherine A.; Schuster, Richard; Schwab, Dominik; Şekercioğlu, Çağan H.; Seo, Hemin; Shackelford, Gorm; Shinoda, Yushin; Smith, Rebecca K.; Tao, Shan-dar; Tsai, Ming-shan; Tyler, Elizabeth; Vajna, Flóra; Valdebenito, José Osvaldo; Vozykova, Svetlana; Waryszak, Paweł; Zamora-Gutierrez, Veronica; Zenni, Rafael D.; Zhou, Wenjun; Sutherland, William

The widely held assumption that any important scientific information would be available in English underlies the underuse of non-English-language science across disciplines. However, non-English-language science is expected to bring unique and valuable scientific information, especially in disciplines where the evidence is patchy, and for emergent issues where synthesising available evidence is an urgent challenge. Yet such contribution of non-English-language science to scientific communities and the application of science is rarely quantified. Here we show that non-English-language studies provide crucial evidence for informing global biodiversity conservation. By screening 419,679 peer-reviewed papers in 16 languages, we identified 1,234 non-English-language studies providing evidence on the effectiveness of biodiversity conservation interventions, compared to 4,412 English-language studies identified with the same criteria. Relevant non-English-language studies are being published at an increasing rate in six out of the 12 languages where there were a sufficient number of relevant studies. Incorporating non-English-language studies can expand the geographical coverage (i.e., the number of 2° × 2° grid cells with relevant studies) of English-language evidence by 12-25%, especially in biodiverse regions, and taxonomic coverage (i.e., the number of species covered by the relevant studies) by 5-32%, although they do tend to be based on less robust study designs. Our results show that synthesising non-English-language studies is key to overcoming the widespread lack of local, context-dependent evidence and facilitating evidence-based conservation globally. We urge wider disciplines to rigorously reassess the untapped potential of non-English-language science in informing decisions to address other global challenges.

This work was funded by the Australian Research Council Future Fellowship FT180100354, the University of Queensland strategic funding (T.A.), the Natural Environment Research Council NE/L002507/1 (A.P.C.), National Research, Development and Innovation Office, Hungary ED_18-1-2018-0003 (A. Báldi), University of Turin, local research grant (S.B.), the German Research Foundation under Germany's Excellence Strategy EXC 2037 Project Number 390683824 (K.J.), Grant Sonata Bis 4 no. 2014/14/E/NZ8/00165 from the National Science Centre, Poland (J.K.-B,), German Research Foundation grant 2153/5-1 (I.K.), European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement no. 798091 (M.-C.L.), the Natural Environment Research Council NE/P012345/1 (V.M.), Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior – Brasil (CAPES) – Finance Code 001 (J.P.N.G.), Colombian Administrative Department of Science, Technology and Innovation (P.J.N.), Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología-CONACYT 1004537 (A.N.R.V.), European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement no. 766417 (Inspire4Nature - INternational training at the Science-Policy Interface for Researchers in Europe, for Nature) (M.-M.R.), Ph.D. fellowship at the University of Veterinary Medicine Budapest (F.V.), Chilean National Agency for Research and Development, BECAS CHILE 72170569 (J.O.V.), CNPq-Brazil 304701/2019-0 (R.D.Z.), Arcadia, MAVA, and the David and Claudia Harding Foundation (W.J.S.). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript, thus this communication reflects only the authors' view.
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