Don’t dismiss citations to journals not published in English

Belarusian National Technical University, Minsk, Belarus.

Search for this author in:

Kiev National University of Culture and Arts, Kiev, Ukraine.

Search for this author in:

We find it inexcusable for peer reviewers to dismiss citations to scientific papers that are not published in English. Journals written in other languages are a valuable repository for much locally relevant applied science (see, for example, M. Neff Nature 554, 169; 2018). And in most countries today, these works are accessible through free, automated translation services.

We experienced such discrimination after submitting a paper to an English-language journal. It was a bibliometric evaluation of research activities at universities in Belarus and Ukraine, so some citations were inevitably in Russian. One reviewer complained that this “precludes … checking that source to determine if it does actually support the authors’ statements”. Another demanded more information in the text about the work of an internationally recognized bibliometrician, Irina Marshakova-Shaikevich, “since she writes in Russian”.

In our view, substituting non-English citations with anglophone alternatives risks transposing credit for ideas and violates citation standards. Papers should be evaluated on academic criteria, not on superficial grounds of communication.

Nature 556, 174 (2018)

Nature Briefing

An essential round-up of science news, opinion and analysis, delivered to your inbox every weekday.