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Biodiversity studies overlook non-English research, says Australian scientist

Xinhua | Updated: 2021-10-08 10:18

Water vegetation is seen under the water in Everglades wetlands in Everglades National Park, Florida on September 30, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

SYDNEY - After reviewing biodiversity studies written in 16 languages other than English, researchers from the University of Queensland (UQ) and Monash University have concluded that important scientific knowledge lies outside the English-speaking world.

The study looked at over 400,000 peer-reviewed papers in 326 journals, and the results showed that some 1,234 of them contained scientific knowledge on saving species and ecosystems that are not available in English research.

Dr. Tatsuya Amano from UQ, lead author of the paper published in PLOS biology on Friday, said the research was a result of the collaboration of a number of multilingual scientists.

"This research would not have been possible without the tremendous contribution from our 62 collaborators, who are collectively native speakers of 17 languages," said Amano.

Papers reviewed in the project were written in languages including Chinese, Japanese, Hungarian, French, and German. The report noted that many world-changing discoveries were first published in a language other than English.

"The structure of the Nobel Prize-winning antimalarial drug was first published in simplified Chinese."

Amano told Xinhua that 115 papers written in simplified Chinese were identified as containing effective conservation actions.

"Examples include papers on crested ibises, Chinese giant salamanders, red-crowned cranes (all seriously threatened species)," he said.

The findings hold particularly significant implications for conservation work in non-English speaking countries where English-language knowledge for local ecosystems and species is often scarce.

Amano said this can be a "game-changer," noting that it could expand English knowledge of ecosystems by as much as 25 percent, and 32 percent for species.

However, he also noted non-English research often does not gain attention and utilization that they would afford if published in English and shared his advice on how the global scientific community could tear down the barriers of language.

"Anyone who is involved in broad-scale studies, assessments, or databases should be aware of the potential importance of scientific information available only in non-English languages."

"In culturally-diverse academia, it is surprisingly easy to find native speakers of diverse languages, allowing us to use the best available evidence around the world."

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