, 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

  • Mario S. Di BitettiEmail author
  • Julián A. Ferreras


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 



We are grateful to the members of GECOMA (Grupo de Ecología y Conservación de Mamíferos) and other colleagues from IBS for fruitful discussions during a seminar series from which we developed the idea of this contribution, especially Mariano Giombini, Ilaria Agostini, and Paula Tujague. We are thankful to the colleagues that generously volunteered to compare and assess the pairs of abstracts from Revista Argentina de Microbiología - José Di Conza, Daniela Cejas, Bárbara Ghiglione, María Margarita Rodríguez, Sabrina Di Gregorio, Mariana Papalia, and Melina Ruggiero - and Revista Mexicana de Biodiversidad - Ilaria Agostini, Yamil Di Blanco, Agustín Paviolo, Carlos De Angelo, Mariano Giombini, Mauricio Núñez-Regueiro, María Genoveva Gatti, Diego Varela, Juliana Notarnicola, Mariano Sanchez, Andrew J. Noss, and Emiliano Donadio. We are very thankful to Enrique Lessa, Editor of Mastozoología Neotropical and José A. Di Conza, Editor in chief of Revista Argentina de Microbiología, for providing data on rejection rates and language of unpublished manuscripts submitted to those journals. We are very thankful to Graciela Rusch, Associate Editor of Ambio, and two anonymous reviewers for constructive comments that helped us improve this article. This research was supported by the Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas of Argentina (CONICET) and by the Universidad Nacional de Misiones (UNaM).

Supplementary material

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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

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