Journal article Open Access

Growth of non-English-language literature on biodiversity conservation

Chowdhury, Shawan; Gonzalez, Kristofer; Kemahlı Aytekin, M. Çisel; Baek, Seung-Yun; Bełcik, Michał; Bertolino, Sandro; Duijns, Sjoerd; Han, Yuqing; Jantke, Kerstin; Katayose, Ryosuke; Lin, Mu-Ming; Nourani, Elham; Ramos, Danielle Leal; Rouyer, Marie-Morgane; Sidemo-Holm, William; Vozykova, Svetlana; Zamora-Gutierrez, Veronica; Amano, Tatsuya

English is widely recognized as the language of science, and English-language publications (ELPs) are rapidly increasing. It is often assumed that the number of non-ELPs is decreasing. This assumption contributes to the underuse of non-ELPs in conservation science, practice, and policy, especially at the international level. However, the number of conservation articles published in different languages is poorly documented. Using local and international search systems, we searched for scientific articles on biodiversity conservation published from 1980 to 2018 in English and 15 non-English languages. We compared the growth rate in publications across languages. In 12 of the 15 non-English languages, published conservation articles significantly increased every year over the past 39 years, at a rate similar to English-language articles. The other three languages showed contrasting results, depending on the search system. Since the 1990s, conservation science articles in most languages increased exponentially. The variation in the number of non-English-language articles identified among the search systems differed markedly (e.g., for simplified Chinese, 11,148 articles returned with local search system and 803 with Scopus). Google Scholar and local literature search systems returned the most articles for 11 and 4 non-English languages, respectively. However, the proportion of peer-reviewed conservation articles published in non-English languages was highest in Scopus, followed by Web of Science and local search systems, and lowest in Google Scholar. About 20% of the sampled non-English-language articles provided no title or abstract in English; thus, in theory, they were undiscoverable with English keywords. Possible reasons for this include language barriers and the need to disseminate research in countries where English is not widely spoken. Given the known biases in statistical methods and study characteristics between English- and non-English-language studies, non-English-language articles will continue to play an important role in improving the understanding of biodiversity and its conservation.

SC is funded by the Australian Government, the University of Queensland, and the Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science. KJ is funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) under Germany 's Excellence Strategy—EXC 2037 'CLICCS—Climate, Climatic Change, and Society'—Project Number: 390683824, contribution to the Center for Earth System Research and Sustainability (CEN) of Universität Hamburg. M-M.R has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 766417. TA is funded by the Australian Research Council Future Fellowship (FT180100354) and the University of Queensland strategic funding.
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