, Volume 46, Issue 1, pp 121–127 | Cite as

Publish (in English) or perish: The effect on citation rate of using languages other than English in scientific publications



There is a tendency for non-native English scientists to publish exclusively in English, assuming that this will make their articles more visible and cited. We tested this hypothesis by comparing the effect of language on the number of citations of articles published in six natural sciences journals from five countries that publish papers in either English or other languages. We analyzed the effect of language (English vs non-English), paper length, and year of publication on the number of citations. The articles published in English have a higher number of citations than those published in other languages, when the effect of journal, year of publication, and paper length are statistically controlled. This may result because English articles are accessible to a larger audience, but other factors need to be explored. Universities and scientific institutions should be aware of this situation and improve the teaching of English, especially in the natural sciences.


English Lingua franca Scientific evaluation Scientific journals Scientific literature 

Supplementary material

13280_2016_820_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (920 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 924 kb)


  1. Agudelo, J.H. 2010. Editorial: publicar en Inglés. Revista Colombiana de Ciencias Pecuarias 24: 1.Google Scholar
  2. Alberts, B. 2013. Impact factor distortions. Science 340: 787.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Ammon, U. 2007. Global scientific communication: Open questions and policy suggestions. AILA Review 20: 123–133.Google Scholar
  4. Ammon, U. 2010. The hegemony of English. In World Social Science Report. Knowledge Divides. Paris: UNESCO Publishing, 154 f.
  5. Ammon, U. 2012. Linguistic inequality and its effects on participation in scientific discourse and on global knowledge accumulation—With a closer look at the problems of the second-rank language communities. Applied Linguistics Review 3: 333–355.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bordons, M., and I. Gómez. 2004. Towards a single language in science? A Spanish view. Serials 17: 189–195.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bortolus, A. 2012. Running like Alice and losing good ideas: on the quasi-compulsive use of English by non-native English speaking scientists. Ambio 41: 769–772.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Breeze, R. 2015. Citing oustide de community? An investigation of the language of bibliography in top journals. In English as a Scientific and Research Language, ed. R. Plo Alastrué and C. Pérez-Llantada, 37–58. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.Google Scholar
  9. Clavero, M. 2010. ‘‘Awkward wording. Rephrase’’: Linguistic injustice in ecological journals. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 25: 552–553.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Clavero, M. 2011. Unfortunately, linguistic injustice matters. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 26: 156–157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Crawley, M.J. 2007. The R book. West Sussex: Wiley.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Guariguata, M.R., D. Sheil, and D. Murdiyarso. 2010. ‘Linguistic injustice’ is not black and White. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 26: 58–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hamel, R.E. 2007. The dominance of English in the international scientific periodical literature and the future of language use in science. AILA Review 20: 53–71.Google Scholar
  14. Hamel, R.E. 2013. El campo de las ciencias y la educación superior entre el monopolio del inglés y el plurilingüismo: Elementos para una política del leguaje en América Latina. Trabalhos em Linguística Aplicada 52: 321–384.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. La Madeleine, B.L. 2007. Lost in translation. Nature 445: 454–455.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Lawrence, P.A. 2008. Lost in publication: How measurement harms science. Ethics in Science and Environmental Politics 8: 9–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Letchford, A., H.S. Moa, and T. Preis. 2015. The advantage of short paper titles. Royal Society Open Science 2: 150266.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Man, J.P., J.G. Weinkauf, M. Tsang, and D.D. Sin. 2004. Why do some countries publish more than others? An international comparison of research funding, English proficiency and publication output in highly ranked general medical journals. European Journal of Epidemiology 19: 811–817.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Meneghini, R. 2012. Emerging journals: The benefits of and challenges for publishing scientific journals in and by emerging countries. EMBO Reports 13: 106–108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Meneghini, R., and A.L. Packer. 2007. Is there science beyond English? EMBO Reports 8: 112–116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Meneghini, R., A.L. Packer, and L. Nassi-Calò. 2008. Articles by Latin American authors in prestigious journals have fewer citations. PLoS ONE 3(11): e3804.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Root-Bernstein, M., and R.J. Ladle. 2014. Multilinguismo nas ciências ambientais: Ahora ya! [Multilingualism in Environmental Sciences: It’s About Time!]. Ambio 43: 836–837.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. R Core Team. 2015. R: A language and environment for statistical computing. Vienna, Austria: R Foundation for Statistical Computing.
  24. Sarewitz, D. 2016. The pressure to publish pushes down quality. Nature 533: 147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Stolerman, I.P., and K. Stenius. 2008. The language barrier and institutional provincialism in science. Drug and Alcohol Dependence 92: 1–2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Vasconcelos, S.M.R. 2007. Writing up research in English: Choice or necessity? Revista do Colégio Brasileiro de Cirurgiões 34: 62–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Vasconcelos, S.M.R., M.M. Sorenson, and J. Leta. 2007. Scientist-friendly policies for non-native English-speaking authors: Timely and welcome. Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research 40: 743–747.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Vasconcelos, S.M.R., M.M. Sorenson, and J. Leta. 2008. Researchers’ writing competence: A bottleneck in the publication of Latin- American science? EMBO Reports 9: 700–702.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Instituto de Biología Subtropical (IBS) – nodo IguazúUniversidad Nacional de Misiones (UNaM), Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET)Puerto IguazúArgentina
  2. 2.Facultad de Ciencias ForestalesUNaMEldoradoArgentina
  3. 3.Asociación Civil Centro de Investigaciones del Bosque Atlántico (CeIBA)Puerto IguazúArgentina
  4. 4.Instituto de Biología Subtropical (IBS) – nodo PosadasUniversidad Nacional de Misiones (UNaM), Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET)PosadasArgentina
  5. 5.Facultad de Ciencias Exactas Químicas y NaturalesUNaMPosadasArgentina

Personalised recommendations