The manifold costs of being a non-native English speaker in science

Tatsuya Amano, Valeria Ramírez-Castañeda, Violeta Berdejo-Espinola, Israel Borokini, Shawan Chowdhury, Marina Golivets, Juan David González-Trujillo, Flavia Montaño-Centellas, Kumar Paudel, Rachel Louise White, Diogo Veríssimo, Ulrich Dirnagl (Editor)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The use of English as the common language of science represents a major impediment to maximising the contribution of non-native English speakers to science. Yet few studies have quantified the consequences of language barriers on the career development of researchers who are non-native English speakers. By surveying 908 researchers in environmental sciences, this study estimates and compares the amount of effort required to conduct scientific activities in English between researchers from different countries and, thus, different linguistic and economic backgrounds. Our survey demonstrates that non-native English speakers, especially early in their careers, spend more effort than native English speakers in conducting scientific activities, from reading and writing papers and preparing presentations in English, to disseminating research in multiple languages. Language barriers can also cause them not to attend, or give oral presentations at, international conferences conducted in English. We urge scientific communities to recognise and tackle these disadvantages to release the untapped potential of non-native English speakers in science. This study also proposes potential solutions that can be implemented today by individuals, institutions, journals, funders, and conferences. Please see the Supporting information files (S2–S6 Text) for Alternative Language Abstracts and Figs 5 and 6.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere3002184
Number of pages27
JournalPLOS Biology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jul 2023


  • Humans
  • Language
  • Linguistics
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


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