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The Role of English in Research and Scholarship 0 There are many claims that a clear majority of the world's research papers are now published in English. f) For example, in 1983 Eugene Garfield, President of the Institute for Scientific Information (lSI) 1, claimed that 80% of the world's scientific papers are written in English (Garfield 1983). 8 More recently comparable estimates have been produced for engineering, medicine, and nonclinical psychology. 0 It is not clear, however, whether such high percentages for English provide an accurate picture of languages chosen for publication by researchers around the world. e The major difficulty is bias in the databases from which these high percentages are typically derived. 0 The databases are those established by the major abstracting and indexing services, such as the lSI indexes and Medline, which are predominantly located in the United States. 8 As a result, these services have tended to preselect papers that (a) are written in English and (b) originate in the Northern Hemisphere. G For these two reasons, it is probable that research in languages other than English is somewhat underrepresented. 2 Ci) Indeed, Najjar (1988) showed that no Arabic language science journal was consistently covered by the Science Citation Index in the mid-1980s. 4Ii) We can hypothesize from the previous discussion that the role of English in research may be considerably inflated. e In fact, several early small-scale studies bear this out: Throgmartin (1980) produced English percentages in the 40% range for social sciences, and Velhoand Krige (1984) showed a clear preference for publication in Portuguese among Brazilian agricultural researchers. 0 A complete bibliography on schistosomiasis, a tropical disease, by Warren and Newhill (1978) revealed an English language percentage of only 45%. 48 These studies would seem to indicate that a more accurate percentage for English would be around 50% rather than around 80%. ~ However, so far no major international study exists to corroborate such a conclusion. 4i Until such a study is undertakenperhaps by UNESCO-the true global picture of language use in research publication will remain open to doubt and disagreement. .. Until such time, nonnative speakers of English will remain uncertain about how effective their publications are in their own languages. 5. What kind of evidence is offered in support of the conclusions? Is there any evidence that could or should have been included but was not? How good is the evidence? 6. Are the author's conclusions valid or plausible based on the evidence? Why or why not? 7. Are there any important assumptions underlying the article? How do these influence the conclusions? 8. Does the research make an original contribution to the field? Why or why not?
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