- Non-native English speakers face additional barriers to scientific publishing, from journal guidelines accessible only in English to higher rates of language-related manuscript rejection.
- Journals, congresses, and others are beginning to offer support ranging from English language mentoring programmes, training, and buddy systems to free AI proofreading tools.
With English the prominent language of scientific dialogue, non-native speakers can face challenges both day-to-day and longer term, including through the publication development process. Recently, Dr Gabriel Nakamura and Professor Bruno Soares shared their experiences in a climate where non-native English speakers are ~2.5 times more likely to face language-related manuscript rejection than native English speakers. However, efforts by journals and others in the scientific communication ecosystem mean the situation is beginning to change.
Non-native English speakers are ~2.5 times more likely to face language-related manuscript rejection than native English speakers.
A recent EcoEvoRxiv preprint, discussed in a Nature news article by Mariana Lenharo, delved into barriers and potential solutions in the biological sciences. Dr Henry Arenas-Castro and colleagues looked at 736 biological sciences journals, finding that:
- only 8% provided full author guidelines in a non-English language
- less than 7% published articles in non-English languages
- just 10% explicitly allowed authors to cite non-English language references
- only 2 journals (0.3%) stated manuscripts would not be rejected based on perceived English language quality.
These figures support calls from Dr Nakamura and Prof. Soares for stakeholders to recognise language barriers and address them to improve inclusivity for non-native English speakers.
Journals, congresses, and institutions are starting to offer schemes and tools, including:
- English language mentoring programmes, where authors can work with an editor or volunteer to refine their manuscript wording, or prepare congress abstracts and presentations
- allowing congress presentations in multiple languages, with live translations and captioning
- buddy systems and English language training and practice activities
- journals offering authors free use of artificial intelligence proofreading tools, rather than directing to (paid) professional editing services.
While interventions are having a positive impact, we look forward to seeing any further action from the medical publishing community to help drive change.