, Volume 103, Issue 3, pp 939–976 | Cite as

Why do I publish research articles in English instead of my own language? Differences in Spanish researchers’ motivations across scientific domains

  • Irene López-Navarro
  • Ana I. Moreno
  • Miguel Ángel Quintanilla
  • Jesús Rey-Rocha


Previous studies have reported the increased use of English as the “lingua franca” for academic purposes among non-Anglophone researchers. But despite data that confirm this trend, little is known about the reasons why researchers decide to publish their results in English rather than in their first language. The aim of this study is to determine the influence of researchers’ scientific domain on their motivation to publish in English. The results are based on a large-scale survey of Spanish postdoctoral researchers at four different universities and one research centre, and reflect responses from 1717 researchers about their difficulties, motivations, attitudes and publication strategies. Researchers’ publication experiences as corresponding authors of articles in English and in their first language are strongly related to their scientific domain. But surprisingly, Spanish researchers across all domains expressed a similar degree of motivation when they write research articles in English. They perceive a strong association between this language and the desire for their research to be recognized and rewarded. Our study also shows that the target scientific audience is a key factor in understanding the choice of publication language. The implications of our findings go beyond the field of linguistics and are relevant to studies of scientific productivity and visibility, the quality and impact of research, and research assessment policies.


Publication strategies Non-Anglophone researchers Researchers’ motivation Scientific domains Academic writing Research article 



This study is part of a project financed by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation (Ref. FFI2009-08336/FILO; Ana I. Moreno, Principal Investigator). Our study would not have been possible without the collaboration of the following institutions and researchers: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), Universidad de León, Universidad de La Laguna, Sally Burgess and Pedro Martín-Martín, Universitat Jaume I, María Lluisa Gea Valor, Universidad de Zaragoza, Rosa Lorés, Pilar Mur and Enrique Lafuente. Our particular thanks go to Itesh Sachdev, School of Oriental & African Studies, University of London. We express our appreciation to members of the technical staff (José Manuel Rojo, Belén Garzón and Almudena Mata) of the Statistical Analysis Unit of the Centro de Ciencias Humanas y Sociales (CCHS-CSIC), and the Centro de Supercomputación de Galicia (CESGA). Our thanks also go to all our interview informants and survey participants. We are also grateful to María Bordons and the two reviewers for their thoughtful reading and constructive comments and suggestions. We thank K. Shashok for improving the use of English in the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, Hungary 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Irene López-Navarro
    • 1
  • Ana I. Moreno
    • 2
  • Miguel Ángel Quintanilla
    • 3
  • Jesús Rey-Rocha
    • 1
  1. 1.Research Group on Scientific Evaluation and Transfer, Department of Science, Technology and SocietySpanish Council for Scientific Research (CSIC)MadridSpain
  2. 2.Department of Modern PhilologyUniversidad de LeónLeónSpain
  3. 3.Science and Technology Studies InstituteUniversidad de SalamancaSalamancaSpain

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