Science - October 14, 2004

Science journals discriminate against non-native speakers

Scientific journals in Australia and the US discriminate when evaluating submitted manuscripts. If you are a non-native speaker of English you stand far less chance of acceptance, even if your content is good.

This was the point made by Dr Alfred Hartemink during the well-attended workshop on scientific publishing at ISRIC (International Soil Reference and Information Centre) last week. According to Hartemink, who is a researcher at ISRIC, researchers should be aware that the blood sweat and tears it often costs to get research results published has little to do with the content of the research itself. Hartemink was speaking from his own experience of often having an article returned with the advice to get it rewritten by a native English speaker.
According to Hartemink it means that excellent research is often left lying around. He advises young researchers to take his experience to heart, so that they do not lose too much confidence in their own abilities and in their research. He added that political factors often play a role as well. ‘Work submitted by scientists in Iran, Libya and Sudan has been boycotted recently in the United States.’ This has made it almost impossible for their work to be published in American journals.
Fortunately Hartemink has built up a good publications record, including a number of books. He had a few useful tips for the PhD and post-doc researchers: ‘Keep it simple and start with the most interesting things.’ / HB