Why Should Scientific Research Be Translated?

The scientific community thrives on communication. Preprint servers where early drafts of papers are shared, peer review in international journals, and conferences where ideas are shared on a worldwide stage are vital to increasing scientific knowledge.

But it’s not enough to assume a lingua franca, or simply publish everything in English. Below we present five reasons why doing so would be a mistake and the reason why you should think about translating your work.

1. It Limits Potential Collaboration Partners

Large scale research projects may require international collaboration (think of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, or the COVID-19 vaccine development work in 2020). Even smaller projects may benefit from data-sharing with teams in far-flung countries. These teams may not even know about one another’s existence if they miss one another’s papers.

2. You Don’t Discover Competing Teams

The flipside of the first reason is being unaware that for instance, a rival team at the University of Beijing is working on the very same research study you are. They are writing papers in Mandarin while you are reading the literature in English. By making your findings available in a range of languages, you reach rivals from whom you can differentiate your work (or with whom you might collaborate).

3. You May Miss Out on Awards and Funding

To reach the widest range of monetary support, in terms of research grants and venture capital, consider widening your net globally. Although English is accepted as a universal language for scientific papers, you will nevertheless impress savvy investors and awards organizations if you can demonstrate a willingness to share your ideas freely across the global scientific community.

4. Reduces the Possibility of Citation

Academics benefit hugely from their work being cited in other papers, by journalists, in textbooks and so forth. This is much more likely to happen if you have done the hard work of translation for the writer or fellow scientist who is citing you. Furthermore, having your work cited more widely has a promotional effect, broadening reach and allowing search engines to promote your findings more extensively.    

5. Limits International Publication

There are significant scientific journals publishing in languages other than English. One article counts more than 9000 peer reviewed scholarly journals published in languages including French, German, Spanish and Chinese. Why miss out on those vital outlets?

Whether for business reasons, or simply to further the dissemination of ideas, neglecting to translate your scientific papers might be a mistake. The scientific community is truly international, and you should be too.

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HalGatewood.com on Unsplash; Science in HD on Unsplash