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Re: Planet of the New Papers

On 8/20/07, john hunt <john.bass@ntlworld.com> wrote:
> Maybe I didn't phrase it that well - but what is the only language
> Argentinean, Brazilian, Chinese, French, German, Russian, Spanish and
> Mexican scientists are all going to be able to use to communicate with each
> other?

Well, the Argentinian, Spanish, and Mexican scientists can all use
Spanish (and probably still not lose the Brazilian audience), but I
recognize your point. The real question is: Is reaching an
international audience the primary priority of all papers? Yes,
English will reach the widest audience, worldwide. But if you're a
speaker of another language who's writing on a matter that may be of
more interest in your sector of the world than it would be to
foreigners, it may make sense to use another language. Why gain
readers on the other side of the globe at the risk of losing readers
close to home?

The fact that roughly 90% (thanks, David) of all scientific papers are
published in English shows that most papers are indeed intended for a
global audience. About 10% of all papers, then, are intended for a
more local audience. Is this really such a bad thing? Maybe it's
personally frustrating to someone who speaks only English, but 1) you
already have access to 90% of the literature (90%!); 2) it makes
science more readily available to other cultures, which is surely a
good thing; and 3) it gives us the opportunity to expand our knowledge
by seeing how other languages work. (Personally I like trying to wade
my way through the occasional German, Spanish, French, etc. paper, but
maybe that's just me.)

In an ideal situation, papers would be published in both the local and
global language, but this seems to me like it would be a huge task,
and most researchers already have plenty of challenges without adding
this to the mix.

Of course, being a native English speaker from the U.S., I can't speak
from personal experience on any of this, so I'll welcome comments from
a native speaker of some other language.
Mike Keesey