As a scientist born in a non English speaking country, I have asked myself this question in more than one opportunity. As I read not long ago, “many authors are convinced that the acceptability of their articles by indexed journals is based on parameters not related to quality or innovation.”1
Is it true that our research may have less impact just because we are not English native speakers?
In order to try to answer this question and to open the discussion about this topic, I would like to share with you some of my personal thoughts and also the research recently published surrounding this area.
The potential existence of bias in scientific publishing is disclosed in the literature,2,3 although on the majority of the occasions the decision not to accept a manuscript is attributed to external reviewers. There are several other factors related to publishing itself that are carefully discussed in an article that appeared in Neurología1 this year, which I strongly recommend you to read.
Publication bias has been defined as “the tendency for certain kinds of studies, typically those showing a significant positive result in a clinical trial or an observational study, to receive more favorable publication decisions than equally well-conducted studies that report a negative or null result”.4-6 In this sense, I believe that authors, editors and reviewers contribute to create this favoritism towards the publication of certain manuscripts and not others. Among the situations influencing the decision to accept or reject a manuscript we can find the authors’ nationalities, as well as the authors’ mother tongue, and the academic institution where the article comes from.1
Regarding the language, I’m truly convinced that this is a major factor when the final decision of acceptance or rejection of a manuscript is taken. It is a fact that those journals that are not published in English tend to have a lower impact factor and less impact in the scientific community.7-10
There is also evidence that bibliographic databases favor publications in English.1 Articles in their own language are difficult to be accessed, therefore, less people read them and as a consequence, less people cite them.
You may also think that what I’m writing is a contradiction as I’m talking about editorial bias but I’m not writing this article in my mother tongue. However, I’m pretty sure more people are going to have access to this article if it’s written in English, which is basically what I need to spread this idea. I think the real question is whether or not we are willing to take actions when we think our manuscripts don’t receive a fair treatment during the peer-reviewing process and what we can do to change this.
The discussion is open and now it’s your turn to raise your voice and leave your comments here…
1. Matías-Guiu, J.; García-Ramos, R.; Editorial bias in scientific Publications; Neurología, 2011, 26, 1 and references therein.
2. Begg C. B.;
, J. A.; Publication bias; a problem in interpreting medical data; J. Roy. Stat. Soc. A., 1988, 151, 445. Berlin
3. Song, F.; Eastwood, A. J.; Gilbody, S.; Duley, L.; Sutton, A. J.; Publication and related biases; Health Technol. Assess., 2000, 4, 1.
4. Sridharan, L.;
Greenland, P.; Editorial Policies and Publication Bias. The Importance of Negative Studies; Arch. Intern. Med, 2009, 169, 1022.
5. Olson, C. M.; Rennie, D. ; Cook, D. ; Dickersin, K. ; Flanagin, A. ; Hogan, J. W. ; Zhu, Q. ; Reiling, J. ; Pace, B.; Publication bias in editorial decision making, J. Am. Med. Assoc., 2002, 287, 2825.
6. Callaham, M. L.; Wears, R. L.; Weber, E. J.; Barton, C.; Young, G.; Positive-outcome bias and other limitations in the outcome of research abstracts submitted to a scientific meeting; J. Am. Med. Assoc.,1998, 280, 254.
7. Jiménez-Contreras, E.; Delgado López-Cózar, E.; Ruiz-Pérez, R.; Fernández, V. M.; Impact factor rewards affect spanish research; Nature, 2002, 417, 898.
8. Winkmann, G.; Schlutius, S.; Schweim, H. G.; Citation rates of medical German-language journals in English-language papers –do they correlate with the impact factor, and who cites?; Klin. Monatsbl. Augenheilkd., 2002, 219, 72.
9. Winkmann, G.; Schlutius, S.; Schweim; H. G.; Publication languages of Impact Factor journals and of medical bibliographic databanks; Dtsch. Med. Wochenschr. 2002, 127, 131.
10. Gregoire, G.; Derderian, F.; Le Lorier, J.; Is there a
bias?; J. Clin. Epidemiol., 1995, 48, 159. Tower of Babel
Written by Dr. Ana Bellomo for The All Results Journals.