Tuesday, June 18, 2013


Since the end of WW II, English has been the dominant language of science.  This was not always the case.  The late 19th century industrial and scientific explosion in Germany made German a potential contender before geopolitical events depopulated Germany of its scientists.  And earlier in the 19th century French, and originally Latin, were the languages of the day.

The reasons for this are simple.  England has long been a leader in scientific inquiry, and the post-war assimilation of European scientists by the USA and subsequent technological revolution there during the space race and information revolution has kept English on the forefront.

None-the-less, many scientists do still publish in their native languages.  And even when they do publish in English, there are many Journals, such as the Journal of South American Geology Earth Sciences, which offer abstracts in other languages, such as Portuguese and Spanish, the dominant languages of that continent.  Similarly, Geostandards and Geoanalytical Research publishes French Abstract, since is is based in France and published by a French research organisation.

None-the-less, I was surprised to see that the Australian Journal of Earth Sciences is now publishing abstracts in Chinese for its English articles.  Australia is an English speaking country, and although there are small but locally important groups of immigrants who speak various Chinese languages, they are not over-represented in the Earth Sciences.  And while Chinese geologists compete internationally better than their scientists on other fields, and Chinese investment is important in the Australian mineral export industry, it is still a bold move by the AJES editors to pick Chinese as the next language of science.

p.s. If you can't read the title, check that your operating system has Asian characters enabled.