Scientists Not Fluent in English Face a Significant Disadvantage

Learning English can be a challenging step in one's life. A new study now suggests that scientists who are not fluent in English face more difficulties.

The study led by Tatsuya Amano at the University of Queensland in Australia and published in the journal PLOS Biology reveals that being a non-native English speaker in science can have various adverse effects, from challenges reading and writing papers to decreased participation in international conferences.

Amano and his team surveyed 908 environmental experts from eight nations with diverse linguistic and economic backgrounds for the research. The effort required by various scientific tasks for individual researchers to do them in English was contrasted.


The poll found that non-native English speakers had distinct and significant disadvantages. Non-native English speakers require up to twice as much time to read, write, and prepare presentations in English as native English speakers. Simply because of written English, non-native speakers' papers have a 2.5 times higher chance of rejection and a 12.5 times higher chance of receiving a request for modification.

Several individuals also decided not to attend or present at international conferences because of their lack of English communication confidence. These findings significantly impact worldwide efforts to provide an inclusive academic environment where anybody may succeed.

The authors discovered that these disadvantages disproportionately affect individuals in their early career stages and those from lower-income nations. The authors contend that if these hurdles are removed, it will be possible to ensure that non-native English speakers can participate in research or expect contributions from people whose first language is something other than English.

Amano knew the difficulties faced by scientists who are not fluent in English were widespread since he was one of them. Still, he was unaware of precisely how difficult each was compared to native English speakers.

The researchers note that several individuals gave up on careers in science due to linguistic hurdles.

The real, bigger picture issue is that we have done almost nothing as a community, and instead relied on individuals' own efforts to tackle this problem.

- Amano

In light of this, the report also suggests several potential remedies, such as supervisors acknowledging the challenges experienced by their students, publications giving free English editing, and funders providing financial assistance to initiatives aimed at removing language barriers.

According to Amano, academic entry has always required fluency in English.


He concludes: "We must abandon this old system. Anyone in any part of the world should be able to participate in science and contribute to accumulating humanity's knowledge."


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