Running a journal in a local or regional language

Topic lead: Ivonne Lujano
Last updated: 06/07/2023

Academic journals may be published in any language. It is paramount to have human resources and digital infrastructures that help the readers, the authors, and the reviewers read and engage with the journal’s contents regardless of the language of publication.

The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) records tens of languages of publication, reflecting journals that publish in a single or multiple languages, up to 30 different languages in the same title. Some journals may use different languages for different purposes: for example, the website may be available in English, to communicate with the international community, but the full-text contents may be available in the country’s local or regional language. This landscape speaks of a desire to reach balanced multilingualism, despite the global predominance of English in scholarly communications.

In any event, if the journal is available in multiple languages, the information provided must be the same in all languages: this helps avoid ambiguity and ensures that all authors and readers abide by a consistent set of expectations.

Why communicate research in local languages?

It can be helpful to run journals in local languages (either in addition to English, or only in another language) for various reasons:

  • Science needs to communicate with society. Besides researchers being the main target of journals, other stakeholders also benefit from publications, such as students, practitioners, policymakers, journalists and the general public. Importantly, some of these stakeholders only speak or can read their local language. Publishing in languages shared by various communities at a national or regional level can help strengthen collaboration and policy impact.
  • Each language expresses ways of conceiving the world and knowledge. Therefore, encouraging scholarly publication in the language of the authors and readers strengthens the development of theories, methodologies and general scientific thought among that community of speakers.

Implications of the journal’s language

The decision of what language(s) a journal will adopt depends on many factors, such as the discipline, the intended audience, the socio-historical context of the country, the available budget and more. This decision is usually made by the publisher alongside the editorial team. Some decision points to consider when publishing in languages other than English include the following:

AreaDecision points
  • Is the journal intended to reach an international audience, or does it focus mainly on the domestic population?
  • Does it target both?
Editorial board
  • Are individuals who speak the language(s) of publication available to join the editorial board?
  • Is it necessary/desirable to establish groups of editors focusing on different languages?
Peer review
  • Are individuals who speak the language(s) of publication available to peer-review submissions?
  • Are copy editors available to review the quality of the languages(s) of publication?
  • Is it desirable to install automated translation packages on the journal’s website, to enhance accessibility for viewers who speak different languages?
  • Would it be appropriate to professionally translate the journal’s website?

In any event, it is recommended that journals also publish titles and abstracts in English, so that the international community can understand the journal’s scope, aims and focus and access any materials that may be of interest (including, for example, research data associated with the article).

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