Scientists need to be educated to publish in Spanish, says expert

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In the last decade, Spanish-language publications produced by Spanish-speaking scientists have halved in favor of English, which conditions research issues and restricts access to knowledge, says the professor at the University of Salamanca (USAL) Ana Cuevas

Therefore, we must try to “convince” researchers “to publish also in Spanish,” even if it is part of their work, and not limited to English, although this is the prevailing language, says the director of the Institute of Studies in Science and Technology in an interview with Efe.

The specialist in philosophy of science and technology, who offered in the Mexican capital a conference on scientific communication within a cycle of talks by the USAL, affirms that the main reason that there is more and more production in English in the Hispanic world is that it is easier to make known the work abroad.

In addition, when evaluating a researcher’s CV, “much more” is valued than has already been published not only in an international journal -because these can also be in Spanish-, but in a magazine in English.

The implications of this trend are many, but the main one for the academic is that it determines the choice of research topics.

For example, a Spanish geologist may be very interested in a particular aspect of this science in his country -as one refers to a particular region-, but that topic, in turn, may not be relevant to the Anglo-Saxon realm.

“So many geologists or researchers who had a more contextual content have abandoned their research because it does not involve any kind of revenue at the time of publication, even if they are very good,” says the academic, who argues that this example extends to other scientific areas.

To this is added that it is “forcing” everyone to know English to access the scientific content: “Not only this content is difficult per se, it is also in a foreign language,” he argues.

Another issue that comes into play in this debate is related to quality. Due to a classification system of the journals that began in the USA. -which comes from an interest of librarians to know which ones to acquire, since they have limited resources-, the publications that are most valued are “those that are most cited”.

Quality assessment agencies also tend to consider “that a publication is worthwhile because it was published in a certain type of journal”.

The professor of the USAL proposes that the evaluation be carried out “in function of the quality of the results that these articles reflect”, and is not limited to the “quantitative” criteria.

“An article can be very bad and be published in a very good magazine,” or the reverse can happen, he says.

Although “we can not go against the obvious”, that English has a transcendental force because it allows communication with people from all over the world beyond the Anglo-Saxon world, you can not “abandon the possibility of writing in our own language,” he says.

Cuevas remembers that this is a legitimate claim, because Spanish is the second most spoken language on the planet.

“We have to start at home, convince ourselves that we have a language that many people speak, and then we can also publish in English, why not,” says the academic.

Even so, he says he is aware that the defenders of this idea play with the “inclined field”, as it is said colloquially in Latin America, because there are some researchers who consider that they should “bend to the sign of the times”, that is, to English , which “implies a very big handicap”.

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