A comprehensive database of amphibian heat tolerance

Pottier, P., Lin, H.-Y. Oh, R.R.Y., Pollo, P., Rivera-Villanueva, A.N., Valdebenito, J.O., Yang, Y., Amano, T., Burke, S., Drobniak, S.M. & Nakagawa, S. (2022) Scientific Data 9: 600.

Rising temperatures represent a significant threat to the survival of ectothermic animals. As such, upper thermal limits represent an important trait to assess the vulnerability of ectotherms to changing temperatures. This study systematically searched the literature in seven languages to produce the most comprehensive dataset to date on amphibian upper thermal limits, spanning 3,095 estimates across 616 species.

Importantly, by searching in 6 non-English languages, we identified 27 relevant studies, which constitute about 13% of all studies included in the database. This again shows the importance of searching for non-English-language literature for a unbiased synthesis of ecological evidence.

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Geographical locations at which experimental data were collected. Points denote which order of amphibians were assayed (point filling), at which life stage (point border) and in what language were the findings published (point shape).

Language barriers in global bird conservation

Negret, P.J., Atkinson, S.C., Woodworth, B.K., Corella, Tor M., Allan, J.R., Fuller, R.A. & Amano, T. (2022) PLOS ONE 17 (4): e0267151.

Multiple languages being spoken within a species’ distribution can impede communication among conservation stakeholders, the compilation of scientific information, and the development of effective conservation actions.

By combining global datasets of distributions of 10,863 bird species and 119 official languages in 252 countries/territoris in the world, we showed that a surprisingly large number of languages are spoken within the distribution of each bird species. For example, 1,587 bird species have 10 languages or more spoken within their distributions.

Importantly, we also showed threatened and migratory species have significantly more languages spoken within their distributions. Particularly high numbers of species with many languages within their distribution are found in Eastern Europe, Russia and central and western Asia.

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Also explore our Bird Language Diversity app, where you can see where in the world particularly many species are associated with each language.

See the news release from The University of Queensland here.

(a) Relationship between bird species’ distribution range size and the number of official languages within their distribution. International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) threat categories are shown in different colours. Number of official languages spoken within each species’ distribution by (b) migratory status and IUCN threat categories, and by (c) taxonomic order.

Species richness of birds associated with each of the top six official languages with the highest number of species.

See for the results of other languages.

Growth of non-English-language literature on biodiversity conservation

Chowdhury, S., Gonzalez, K., Aytekin, M.Ç.K., Baek, S.-Y., Bełcik, M., Bertolino, S., Duijns, S., Han, Y., Jantke, K., Katayose, R., Lin, Mu-M, Nourani, E., Ramos, D.L., Rouyer, M.-M., Sidemo-Holm, W., Vozykova, S., Zamora-Gutierrez, V. & Amano, T. (2022) Conservation Biology.

It is often assumed that scientific articles are being published less frequently in non-English languages, as science is becoming increasingly globalised. This partly contributes to the current underestimation of the importance of non-English-language literature in conservation science, policies, and practices. In this study, we compiled the number of articles published annually in English and in 15 non-English languages by searching both local and international literature search systems. We show that in 12 of the 15 non-English languages we investigated, the number of conservation articles published per year has significantly increased over the past 39 years, at a rate similar to English-language articles. About 20% of the sampled non-English-language articles provided neither title nor abstract in English; thus, in theory, they were undiscoverable with English keywords. These results suggest that non-English-language articles will continue to play an important role in improving the understanding of biodiversity and its conservation.

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Changes in the number of biodiversity conservation articles published from 1980 to 2018 in 16 languages based on searches for the keywords biodiversity AND conservation (translated into each language) in Google Scholar and local literature search systems (S, simplified; T, traditional).

A solution for breaking the language barrier

Khelifa, R., Amano, T. and Nuñez, M.A. (2021) Trends in Ecology & Evolution.

Language barriers have multiple consequences in science. On the one hand, non-native English speakers seirously struggle with language barriers, for example, when writing and publishing papers in English. On the other hand, language barriers can also impede the effective transfer of scientific knowledge, such as the global compilation of non-English-language knowledge and local application of English-language scientific knowldge. In this article, we propose a potential solution to these problems – developing and implementing a system on a preprint platform for facilitating the exchange of language skills among researchers (in the form of “peer language proofing” and “peer language translation”).

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The process and benefits of a peer language proofing (PLP) and peer language translation (PLT) system in preprint repositories. The list of benefits provided is not exhaustive.

Tapping into non-English-language science for the conservation of global biodiversity

Amano, T., Berdejo-Espinola, V., Christie, A.P., Willott, K., Akasaka, M., Báldi, A., et al. (2021) PLOS Biology 19(10): e3001296.

It is commonly assumed that any important scientific knowledge would be available in English, and, as a consequence, scientific knowledge used in international studies and assessments is predominantly sourced from English-language documents. But is this assumption correct? Few studies to date have quantified the contribution of science written in non-English languages to scientific communities and the application of science. This new research unveils the untapped, enormous potentials of science written in languages other than English in the conservation of global biodiversity.

This research scrutinises over 400 thousand peer-reviewed papers in 326 journals published in 16 languages, and identifies 1,234 studies that provide scientific knowledge on saving species and ecosystems. Importantly, the number of such non-English-language studies being published is increasing, found in particular in areas and for species where English-language knowledge is scarce, including Latin America and other regions where conservation is needed the most.

The findings have important implications for global efforts tackling the biodiversity crisis, where lack of evidence is a commonly faced issue when trying to implement evidence-based conservation. The research demonstrates that incorporating non-English-language studies can expand the availability of scientific evidence on saving species and ecosystems into 12-25% more areas and 5-32% more species (see figures below).

Most global studies and assessments on biodiversity report significant gaps in the availability of scientific knowledge, quite often without having explored science written in non-English languages. The findings of this research indicate that making the best use of non-English-language science can be a quick, cost-effective approach to filling such gaps, facilitating a wider application of evidence-based conservation globally.

This research also sheds light on how linguistically and culturally diverse scientific communities can maximise the contribution of science to addressing urgent global challenges.

View full publication, here.

See the Supporting Information files for Alternative Language Abstracts in 16 languages (French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, simplified Chinese, Spanish, traditional Chinese, Turkish, and Ukrainian).

Also see our piece at The Conversation here.

Press releases are also issued in multiple languages:

The location of 1,203 non-English-language studies testing the effectiveness of conservation interventions, compared to English-language studies. Amano et al. (2021) Tapping into non-English-language science for the conservation of global biodiversity.

The number of English- and non-English-language studies testing the effectiveness of conservation interventions for each amphibian, bird, and mammal species.

Ten tips for overcoming language barriers in science

Amano, T., Rios Rojas, C., Boum II, Y., Calvo, M. and Misra, B. B. (2021) Nature Human Behaviour 5: 1119–1122

Language barriers have serious consequences in science, creating inequality for under-represented communities, making non-English-language knowledge inaccessible, and impeding the uptake of science by decision-makers. Yet language barriers in science are rarely tackled seriously enough. To change the current lack of concerted efforts, we believe scientific communities need a clear checklist for tackling and solving language barriers. Here we, as a group of non-native English speakers working in diverse scientific disciplines, have listed ten tips to help everyone in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) start tackling and solving this issue. We hope the ten tips serve as a starting point for academia in ending the lack of concerted efforts and solving this overlooked issue.

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View the ten tips in a storytelling format here.

Also see below its summary in French, Japanese and Spanish.

Culturally diverse expert teams have yet to bring comprehensive linguistic diversity to intergovernmental ecosystem assessments

Lynch et al. (2021) One Earth.

A new One Earth paper found that despite the involvement of linguistically-diverse experts in IPBES assessments, references cited were predominantly in English and comments from Anglophone reviewers were also overrepresented in those assessment reports. This indicates that the IPBES assessment outputs are disproportionately filtered through English-language literature and Anglophone experts. The paper was led by Abigail Lynch from U.S. Geological Survey and co-authored by Tatsuya from the translatE projoct.

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Graphical abstract of the paper

Monolingual searches can limit and bias results in global literature reviews

Nuñez, M.A. and Amano, T. (2021) Nature Ecology & Evolution.

A perspective article recently published in Nature Ecology & Evolution (Haddaway et al 2020) nicely reviews various problems with ecological literature reviews and provides methodological solutions to address those problems. Nevertheless, we found that a key issue was not covered by the perspective article – the need to search and analyse literature published in languages other than English. In this correspondence article, we elaborate how ignoring non-English-language literature could bias conclusions of (especially global) evidence syntheses, and propose some potential solutions to properly incorporate non-English-language literature in future literature reviews.

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Ignoring Non-English-Language Studies May Bias Ecological Meta-Analyses

Konno, K., Akasaka, M., Koshida, C., Katayama, N., Osada, N., Spake, R. and Amano, T. (2020) Ecology and Evolution.

By reanalysing existing meta-analyses including both English- and Japanese-language studies, we show that effect sizes differ significantly between English- and Japanese-language studies, causing considerable changes in overall mean effect sizes and even their direction when Japanese-language studies are excluded (see figure below). The differences in effect sizes are likely attributable to systematic differences in reported statistical results (language bias in statistical results – see diagram below) as well as study characteristics, particularly taxa and ecosystems (language bias in study characteristics), between English- and Japanese-language studies. This finding has a broad, yet simple implication: future meta-analyses—particularly those conducted at global extents or in regions where English is not widely spoken—should actively search for relevant non-English-language studies, and if appropriate, include them.

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Differences in mean effect sizes between English- (blue) and Japanese-language studies (red) included in existing ecological meta-analyses (left: Koshida & Katayama (2018) Conservation Biology, right: Osada et al. (2013) Japanese Journal of Ecology).

The fate of ignoring studies published in relevant language(s). Studies providing certain information may be more likely to be published in non-English languages (language bias in study characteristics) because, for example, those studies are often not of great interest from an international perspective. After the analysis, statistically significant or positive results may be more likely to be published in higher-impact, English-language journals (language bias in statistical results).

Languages are still a major barrier to global science

Amano, T., González-Varo, J.P. and Sutherland, W.J. (2016) PLOS Biology 14: e2000933.

This piece was our initial attempt to review how language barriers affect science in two directions: (i) when compiling knowledge globally and (ii) when applying knowledge to local environmental issues. For (i) we estimated that up to 36% of conservation-related scientific documents in 2014 were published in non-English languages (below). This clearly indicates an untapped potential of non-English-language literature as an important source of scientific knowledge. For (ii) our survey showed that 54% of protected area directors in Spain identified language as a barrier to the use of scientific papers for their management. At the end of this paper we also provide a number of suggestions for tackling this issue.

View full publication here.