We are pleased to share our first project update of the year, packed with information on new papers and other good news.

The first phase of the translatE project has come to an end last month. Thanks to all your enormous contribution and support, we have had four exciting years since the official launch of this project in April 2019. Please see Section 6 of this update for the summary of our achievements during this period.

However, it is not the end of our project! We are now about to start the next phase of the translatE project, funded by the Australian Research Councile Discovery Project grant, in which we will focus on devising and implementing solutions (including the use of Artificial Intelligence – see Section 1 of this update) to overcoming language barriers.

We look forward to continuing existing, and developing new collaboration with you all to tackle this important issue in science!

We are pleased to see the publication of our latest paper “The role of non-English-language science in informing national biodiversity assessments” in Nature Sustainability.

In this paper we surveyed 37 countries where English is not an official language, and found that 65% of the references cited in their national biodiversity reports were in non-English languages. But non-English-language literature represents just 3.4% of the references cited in the IPBES reports. This means that international assessments like those by the IPBES may be overlooking important, locally and regionally relevant scientific information on biodiversity conservation.

A quarter of report authors also said they struggled with understanding English-language literature, which shows that English-language barriers seem to impede the uptake of scientific evidence in decision making in those countries where English is not widely spoken.

This was another global collaboration with 37 coauthors around the world. We would like to thank all of the collaborators and those who participated in our survey!

Read the paper here.

After Science updated its editorial policy to ban the use of text generated by AI tools in scientific papers, we wrote a letter to the Editor raising our concern about the decision made.

We argue that AI tools like ChatGPT and DeepL could help alleviate current linguistic disparities in academia and thus improve equity in science.

Read the letter here.

We are also pleased to see that, in response to our letter, Science now recognises potentially acceptable uses of AI tools for writing papers and may consider adjusting its policies in future.

Prof Tiffany Morrison at James Cook University, Australia and her team are now looking for participants in their survey: new marine interventions for ecosystems in rapid transition.

Please find below the details and a link to the online survey in English, and the same survey translated in Spanish, Portuguese, French, Chinese, and Japanese here: Marine interventions survey invitations and links in multiple languages.


Survey: New marine interventions for ecosystems in rapid transition

Dear colleague,

Do you care about assisted evolution, cloud brightening, seaweed farming, translocation, coral propagation, and other novel marine interventions?

Whether you are a researcher, practitioner, or decisionmaker, we want to hear your views!

You are invited to take part in a short global survey about how new interventions in changing oceans are being proposed, assessed, and managed.

The results will be used to work directly with governments, NGOs, and donors to co-create practical guidance on how to govern new marine interventions in a changing climate.

The survey will take 15 minutes of your time and can be accessed from a desktop device via this link:

We also strongly encourage you to share this opportunity to be heard with your colleagues and networks.

Thank you in advance for contributing to this global effort,
Professor Tiffany Morrison & Professor Terry Hughes (James Cook University)
Professor Gretta Pecl & Dr Emily Ogier (University of Tasmania)
JCU Ethics Approval H8845 for Australian Research Council Discovery Project DP220103921

Our close collaborator Valeria Ramírez-Castañeda at UC Berkeley is calling for contribution to a special issue “Emotional burdens of imposed monolingualism in education and science” for journal Forum for Linguistic Studies.

Suitable topics include (but are not limited to):

  • Mental health issues for foreign or second-language students.
  • Pressure to conduct science in dominant languages in the global south.
  • Institutional demands on international graduate instructors to erase accents and teach exclusively in a dominant language.
  • Notions of professional success and failure related to language proficiency.
  • Feelings of limitation to pursue higher education programs due to linguistic barriers.
  • Institutional barriers or diminished options to diversify language in science.
  • Differential participation and leadership of foreign-language students in monolingual academic events.

The submission deadline is 30th September 2023. See here for more details.

It is our great pleasure to give you our December 2022 project update. It includes recent publications and presentations from the project, media coverage, a brief update on two of our sub-projects, and exciting news on having secured a new grant.

We would like to thank all of our collaborators and supporters for their tremendous contribution and support. Thanks to all the support, the translatE project had another exciting and productive year, which we believe would help overcome this important issue of language barriers in science.

We hope you all will enjoy the festive season and keep safe and well.

We are very excited to see the release of a new open access book:

Transforming Conservation: A practical Guide to Evidence and Decision Making

which is edited by Prof William Sutherland, and authored by 76 experts from around the world.

The overarching aim of the book is to facilitate the use of scientific evidence in biodiversity conservation, and more broadly in any decision making processes. The book thus covers a wide range of important topics, including rethinking how evidence is assessed, combined, communicated and used in decision-making; using effective methods when asking experts to make judgements; using a structured process for making decisions that incorporate the evidence and having effective processes for learning from actions.

Tatsuya contributed to three chapters of the book:

Chapter 2. Gathering and Assessing Pieces of Evidence

Chapter 4. Presenting Conclusions from Assessed Evidence

Chapter 12. Transforming Practice: Checklists for Delivering Change.

In particular, Chapter 2 includes a section (2.5.5 Global evidence in multiple languages) on the importance of non-English-language evidence.

All contents of the book are open access and so freely available here.

Also see blog and video by Prof Sutherland.

Our new paper “Trends and progress in studying butterfly migration” led by Shawan Chowdhury, previously at the UQ and now at iDiv, has been published in Integrative Conservation.

This study reviewed studies on butterfly migration published in six languages (English, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Spanish), and found 345 non-English-language studies, compared to 581 English-language studies, mostly on species in South America and Asia, where English-language studies were scarce.

This again nicely illustrate the importance of non-English-language studes in ecology and conservation.

Read the open access paper here.