Language barriers in organismal biology: what can journals do better?

Nolde-Lopez, B., Bundus, J., Arenas-Castro, H., Román, D., Chowdhury, S., Amano, T., Berdejo-Espinola, V. & Wadgymar, S.M. (2023) Integrative Organismal Biology, obad003.

This study surveyed the author guidelines of 230 journals in organismal biology with Impact Factors of 1.5 or greater for linguistically inclusive and equitable practices and policies.

More specifically, we looked for efforts that reflect first steps towards reducing barriers to publication for authors globally, including the presence of statements that encouraged submissions from authors of diverse nationalities and backgrounds, policies regarding manuscript rejection based on perceived inadequacies of the English language, the existence of bias-conscious reviewer practices, whether translation and editing resources or services are available, allowance for non-English abstracts, summaries, or translations, and whether journals offer license options that would permit authors (or other scholars) to translate their work and publish it elsewhere.

We reveal that journals and publishers have made little progress towards beginning to recognize or reduce language barriers. Counter to our predictions, journals associated with scientific societies did not appear to have more inclusive policies compared to non-society journals. Many policies lacked transparency and clarity, which can generate uncertainty, result in avoidable manuscript rejections, and necessitate additional time and effort from both prospective authors and journal editors.

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