Language extinction triggers the loss of unique medicinal knowledge | PNAS

Abstract:  The United Nations proclamation of 2022–2032 as the International Decade of Indigenous Languages aims to raise global awareness about their endangerment and importance for sustainable development. Indigenous languages contain the knowledge that communities have about their surrounding plants and the services they provide. The use of plants in medicine is a particularly relevant example of such ecosystem services. Here, we find that most medicinal knowledge is linguistically unique—i.e., known by a single language—and more strongly associated with threatened languages than with threatened plants. Each indigenous language is therefore a unique reservoir of medicinal knowledge—a Rosetta stone for unraveling and conserving nature’s contributions to people.

 

The Global Extinction of Languages Is Threatening a Vital Type of Human Knowledge

“As human languages are driven to extinction around the world, a verbal encyclopedia of medical knowledge is on the brink of being forgotten.

Among 12,495 medicinal uses for plants in indigenous communities, new research has found over 75 percent of those plants are each tied to just one local language. If these unique words trickle out of use, so too may the knowledge they contain….

Language extinction is a tragic phenomenon that’s been occurring worldwide, as languages spoken by precious few people are replaced by larger ones. Roughly one language ceases to be spoken every four months, and 3,054 languages are currently endangered around the world….

The vast majority of plant species in the study were found to have medical properties described in just one indigenous language, many of which are themselves endangered….

In North America, for instance, the authors found waning indigenous languages held 86 percent of all unique knowledge on plant medicine. In the northwest Amazon, on the other hand, 100 percent of medicinal plant knowledge is restricted to languages on the edge of extinction. …”

Contemporary China Centre Blog » The Hidden Language Policy of China’s Research Evaluation Reform

“In February, China’s Ministries of Education and of Science and Technology released two documents that reshaped the research landscape: “Some Suggestions on Standardizing the Use of SCI Paper Indexes” and “Some Measures to Eliminate the Bad Orientation of ‘Papers Only’.” Elaborating the academic reform that President Xi has pursued since 2016, they provide the first detailed steps for dramatically reducing the role of the Science Citation Index (SCI) in evaluating Chinese research….

For twenty years, the SCI—a prestige listing of “high impact” scientific journals—controlled the careers of Chinese researchers. It and various derived indices are commonly used for university rankings and research evaluation (the UK, for example, uses SCI-derived data to allocate funding), but China relied on the SCI to an unusual degree. There, quotas for publishing in SCI journals governed hiring and advancement, pay bonuses, and even graduation from doctoral programs. In using the SCI as a “gold standard,” Chinese administrators sought to increase productivity, enhance national prestige, and benchmark the closure of gaps between China’s research sector and cutting-edge work internationally.

To a significant extent, these goals have been met. China has risen rapidly up international rankings, and Chinese research productivity routinely exceeds the world average (Li & Wang, 2019). Since 2016, China has been the world’s largest producer of published research, accounting for over a third of all global activity (Xie & Freeman, 2018, p. 2). …

So why change a winning formula? The Ministries’ announcements have focused on eliminating perverse incentives created by over-reliance on the SCI, which saw researchers prioritizing quantity over quality, nepotistically inflating citation counts, and falling prey to predatory journals. The Chinese government has, accordingly, allocated tens of millions of dollars to initiatives for improving Chinese journal quality and combating corrupt publishing practices. At the same time, commentators have noted the potential cost savings of de-centering SCI metrics….”

What Is Global Health: Science and Practice Doing to Address Power Imbalances in Publishing? | Global Health: Science and Practice

“We [at Global Health] are committed to removing publication barriers that can disproportionately impact authors based in LMICs. Recognizing that journal fees can be a major impediment to article submission and publication, especially for researchers in LMICs,11 we continue to make GHSP a no-fee, open-access journal. Furthermore, in instances where English language barriers could hinder publication opportunities, our editorial team has worked with authors to address language barriers and is committed to continuing this practice.”

Disadvantages in preparing and publishing scientific papers caused by the dominance of the English language in science: The case of Colombian researchers in biological sciences

Abstract:  The success of a scientist depends on their production of scientific papers and the impact factor of the journal in which they publish. Because most major scientific journals are published in English, success is related to publishing in this language. Currently, 98% of publications in science are written in English, including researchers from English as a Foreign Language (EFL) countries. Colombia is among the countries with the lowest English proficiency in the world. Thus, understanding the disadvantages that Colombians face in publishing is crucial to reducing global inequality in science. This paper quantifies the disadvantages that result from the language hegemony in scientific publishing by examining the additional costs that communicating in English creates in the production of articles. It was identified that more than 90% of the scientific articles published by Colombian researchers are in English, and that publishing in a second language creates additional financial costs to Colombian doctoral students and results in problems with reading comprehension, writing ease and time, and anxiety. Rejection or revision of their articles because of the English grammar was reported by 43.5% of the doctoral students, and 33% elected not to attend international conferences and meetings due to the mandatory use of English in oral presentations. Finally, among the translation/editing services reviewed, the cost per article is between one-quarter and one-half of a doctoral monthly salary in Colombia. Of particular note, we identified a positive correlation between English proficiency and higher socioeconomic origin of the researcher. Overall, this study exhibits the negative consequences of hegemony of English that preserves the global gap in science. Although having a common language is important for science communication, generating multilinguistic alternatives would promote diversity while conserving a communication channel. Such an effort should come from different actors and should not fall solely on EFL researchers.

 

2020 Workshop Multilingualism – AEUP – Association of European University Presses

“This workshop on multilingualism will bring publishers, translators, librarians, young researchers and interested stakeholders together, to exchange experiences on multilingualism and challenges with open access in academic publishing regarding multilingualism and discuss lobbying strategies….

Balance of localization and globalization: right balance of international and local relevance of research & impact of research
Translation: translation and translators as “invisible contribution” or recognized in their own right, authority of automated translations
Open access specific challenges around multilingualism
Hegemonial challenges around languages:
– linguistic hegemony and dominance in multilingual settings
– minorities and native languages as a cultural trait
– dominance of latin alphabet requirements (aggregators in scientific communication)
– dominance of the concept of universal linguae franca such as English….”

New wiki project – Abstract Wikipedia – will boost content across languages – Neowin

“Wikimedia Foundation has announced a new project that proposes a new way to generate encyclopedic content in a multilingual fashion. Abstract Wikipedia will allow more contributors and more readers to share more knowledge in more languages.

The Wikimedia Foundation is an American non-profit organization founded by Jimmy Wales as a way to fund Wikipedia and its sibling projects. This is the foundation’s first new project in over seven years.

The project was first proposed in a 22-page paper by Denny Vrande?i?, founder of Wikidata, earlier this year. He had floated a new idea that would allow contributors to create content using abstract notation which could then be translated to different natural languages, balancing out content more evenly, no matter the language you speak.

He suggested a project that could be used by anyone in the world to enter information as abstract notation, and then a tool called Wikilambda would host a collection of functions that could turn the notation into natural language text. Per him, the project wouldn’t require a major breakthrough in current knowledge of natural language generation or lexical knowledge representation….”

New wiki project – Abstract Wikipedia – will boost content across languages – Neowin

“Wikimedia Foundation has announced a new project that proposes a new way to generate encyclopedic content in a multilingual fashion. Abstract Wikipedia will allow more contributors and more readers to share more knowledge in more languages.

The Wikimedia Foundation is an American non-profit organization founded by Jimmy Wales as a way to fund Wikipedia and its sibling projects. This is the foundation’s first new project in over seven years.

The project was first proposed in a 22-page paper by Denny Vrande?i?, founder of Wikidata, earlier this year. He had floated a new idea that would allow contributors to create content using abstract notation which could then be translated to different natural languages, balancing out content more evenly, no matter the language you speak.

He suggested a project that could be used by anyone in the world to enter information as abstract notation, and then a tool called Wikilambda would host a collection of functions that could turn the notation into natural language text. Per him, the project wouldn’t require a major breakthrough in current knowledge of natural language generation or lexical knowledge representation….”

Long read | Science needs to inform the public. That can’t be done solely in English | LSE Covid-19

“Science, when communicated exclusively in English, risks not fully meeting its third mission, which is to inform the public. Never before have we seen this phenomenon as intensified as it has been throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Ideally health-related studies, measures, and responses can be produced and examined by scientists, professionals, governing authorities, and individuals with the benefit of time. In the case of COVID-19, scientific communities have been called upon to assert new knowledge that will satisfy a remarkably urgent dual mission. Doing that only in English will leave many people behind, write Zehra Taskin (Adam Mickiewicz University), Guleda Dogan (Hacettepe University), Emanuel Kulczycki (Adam Mickiewicz University), and Alesia Ann Zuccala (University of Copenhagen)….”

Long read | Science needs to inform the public. That can’t be done solely in English | LSE Covid-19

“Science, when communicated exclusively in English, risks not fully meeting its third mission, which is to inform the public. Never before have we seen this phenomenon as intensified as it has been throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Ideally health-related studies, measures, and responses can be produced and examined by scientists, professionals, governing authorities, and individuals with the benefit of time. In the case of COVID-19, scientific communities have been called upon to assert new knowledge that will satisfy a remarkably urgent dual mission. Doing that only in English will leave many people behind, write Zehra Taskin (Adam Mickiewicz University), Guleda Dogan (Hacettepe University), Emanuel Kulczycki (Adam Mickiewicz University), and Alesia Ann Zuccala (University of Copenhagen)….”

What Open means in the face of inequity & inequality – Google Slides

“It’s not only about getting the licensing right — it’s also about overcoming linguistic barriers, put resources in place, build the technical infrastructures that are flexible enough to adapt to diverse contexts”

Digitising archives, sharing knowledge | Interview | Nepali Times

“The South Asia Materials Project is now digitising as the means of preservation, and many of the resources are being made available online. Further, the newly formed South Asia Open Archives initiative is laying plans for massive efforts to digitise and make available important cultural resources for open access.”

Public access to historical records now more accessible -as National Archives continues digitisation process

“Historical records are being made more accessible to students and members of the public as the process of digitisation of valuable primary source documents continues. Archivist at the National Archives of Guyana, Department of Culture, Ministry of Social Cohesion, Ms. Nadia Gamel-Carter, today, provided this update at the opening of the Archives Week Exhibition. The week-long exhibition dedicated to the commemoration of the Centenary Anniversary for the Abolition of Indentureship targets secondary and tertiary students and aims to raise awareness about the genealogical research and other services that the agency provides.”