武夷山分享 http://blog.sciencenet.cn/u/Wuyishan 中国科学技术发展战略研究院研究员;南京大学信息管理系博导

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2006年1月20日回答一位国外学者关于中国科研人员论文发表状况的提问

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2006年1月20日回答一位国外学者关于中国科研人员论文发表状况的提问

武夷山

 

    对方的问题如下:

What’s happening in China right now: are most researchers in China publishing only in Mandarin or Cantonese?

Why? They don’t want to publish in English language journals? They don’t have access to non-Chinese publications?

Most importantly, what will be science missing if publishers don’t incorporate research done in China?

 

Dear Dr. Flores:

 

I have meetings all day today, so I'd like to reply to your questions in written form.

 

1、 No one has done such a survey, but I could be sure that most Chinese researchers publish only in Chinese journals (Mandarin and Cantonese differ in pronunciation, not in characters. So no matter you speak Mandarin or Cantonese, you publish in Chinese, universal Chinese).

 

2、There are too many reasons for this. First, there are some unique disciplines inChina, say traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). TCM has its own concept systems that are not comprehensible for foreign scholars who are trained in so-called modern medical science. In fact, even withinChina, papers about traditional Miao Nationality medicine are better written in Miao language, papers on Tibetan medicine written in Tibetan, etc. Secondly, language barrier is huge. Dr. Leydesdorff speaks excellent English, but he sometimes invites native English speakers to brush up his manuscripts before he contributes them to publishers. So you could imagine how difficult it is for Chinese scientists to publish in foreign languages. Oriental languages have greater distance from English than Occidental languages such as, say, Dutch. In fact, as more and more scholars trained abroad return to China, and more and more domestically trained scientists get proficient in English, linguistic barrier is not so threatening as in the past (The barrier has the same height, but relatively more people developed stronger leg power to stride over it). Chinese scientists do publish much more SCI papers in recent years. Thirdly,Chinais a big enough country, and Chinese is used in Chinese Hong Kong, Chinese Macao, Chinese Taiwan,Singapore,  and other overseas Chinese communities in addition to the Mainland China, which has 1.3 billion population,  so that if you publish a high quality paper or book in Chinese, the potential readership is already very wide and you feel satisfied psychologically. You don’t bother to reach more audience by translating your work into English.

In short, most Chinese researchers don’t publish in English because they don’t think it cost-effective to do so, considering their own foreign language skill, disciplinary features, intended readership, etc., not because they don’t want to publish in English journals. Many people would say, “I would if only I could”, as expressed in a song.

Access is not a problem for scientists working in first-ranking universities and research institutes. There are access issues for scientists in remote regions or in small cities, but access difficulty won’t prevent them from contributing to foreign journals if they like to have a try.  

 

3. World science community would miss a lot if they could not incorporate research done inChinaor in any other non-English speaking countries. First, Languages have a huge impact upon one’s thinking style. Therefore, linguistic diversity is one of many dimensions to ensure that multiple ideas collide with each other and spark innovations. English-only science community would gain in reduced communication cost but lose in narrowed creativity pool. 

Second, tradition is not equal to backwardness. In fact, to realize sustainable development, we have to look into traditional societies to seek inspiration for way out. In this sense, research done in China, India, Brazil or in any other developing country, that is not in align with so-called main-stream science, will make great contributions to humankind.

 

This is my replies to your questions and I am happy to discuss with you further.

 

Best wishes,

 

Wu Yishan

ISTIC  

             




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