English ‘now dominant language of science’ in Latin America

Portuguese use in particular has seen relative decline as Brazil-based authors seek collaboration outside region 

October 1, 2021
Source: iStock

English has become the dominant language of science in Latin America, with the use of Portuguese among Brazil-based authors in particular declining, according to a new study.

According to the report from Clarivate’s Institute for Scientific Information, articles in Portuguese now make up fewer than 15 per cent of Brazil’s output in the Web of Science database of indexed research, down from almost 30 per cent in 2009.

Even in the research database SciELO, which was set up to aid scientific communication in the region, the share of Brazil’s output that is in Portuguese has fallen from about 70 per cent in 2009 to well under half in 2020.

Spanish-language research has seen less of a decline: although its share of Web of Science papers among the output of countries like Argentina and Mexico has fallen in recent years, the proportion in SciELO has remained relatively stable.

However, English-language research has overtaken both Spanish and Portuguese to become the most used language in SciELO, with almost 20,000 papers indexed in 2020, as opposed to about 17,000 in Spanish and fewer than 9,000 in Portuguese.

“English has become the dominant ‘lingua americana’ of science,” says the report, with “growing international collaboration” and the benefits of “enabling access of research findings to a global network of researchers” a key driver of the trend.

At the same time, the report says that such collaboration is focused on working with researchers outside Latin America – especially the US, Spain, Germany, France, the UK and, increasingly, China – with in-region collaboration being “uniformly low”.

It says that regional collaboration as a share of research output for Latin America was less than 2 per cent in 1981 but had only risen to around 3.3 per cent in 2020. This was even lower than the Middle East, another global region that has struggled to foster local collaboration.

Even in Brazil, the most collaborative country in Latin America according to the report, out of 127,400 papers involving collaboration, 10,000 had a regional co-author but only one-quarter of these were authored solely within Latin America.

Jonathan Adams, chief scientist at the ISI, said it was “most concerning” that research collaboration within Latin America remained so low given the common challenges faced by nations in the region. Similar to the Middle East, he suggested that regional funding coordination could aid the situation.

“There are significant potential benefits for the creation of a regional research organisation to enable further research growth, training and capacity building to tackle common challenges across the region,” he said.

“The European research framework has undoubtedly boosted achievement and is a model that could work equally well in Latin America.”

Despite the findings on collaboration, the report does find that research output in Latin America has grown more rapidly than most other parts of the world over the past 40 years, with Web of Science-indexed papers growing by more than 20 per cent since 1981.


Register to continue

Why register?

  • Registration is free and only takes a moment
  • Once registered, you can read 3 articles a month
  • Sign up for our newsletter
Please Login or Register to read this article.

Related articles


Featured jobs