EGU2020-7236
https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu2020-7236
EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Integrating less represented countries into the mainstream of European geosciences

Melinda Dósa1,2, Anikó Timár1,2,3, and Anita Heward2,4
Melinda Dósa et al.
  • 1Wigner Research Centre for Physics, Space Physics and Space Technology, Budapest, Hungary (dosa.melinda@wigner.mta.hu)
  • 2Europlanet 2024 RI
  • 3Department of Geophysics and Space Science, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary
  • 4University of Kent, UK

In order to build a diverse, inclusive community of geoscientists within Europe, a statistical study is carried out based on participation statistics of different conferences in Europe over the past five years. Data of geoscience conferences (EGU, IUGG), planetary (EPSC) and solar-terrestrial science conferences (ESWW, ESPM) are investigated. Special focus is given to the historical division between Eastern and Western Europe and senior and junior scientists. The aim is to show that the geographical division continues to exist and does not show a general improving trend, while the position of the younger generation seems to improve. Some “success cases” defying the usual trend are shown and analysed in detail. We suggest some reasons behind the statistics and draw some lessons that can help integrating less represented researchers into the mainstream of European geosciences.

How to cite: Dósa, M., Timár, A., and Heward, A.: Integrating less represented countries into the mainstream of European geosciences, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-7236, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu2020-7236, 2020

Comments on the presentation

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Presentation version 2 – uploaded on 04 May 2020
Version description: minor changes in wording + I added a final message saying that virtual conferences are a new possibility for[...]
  • CC1: Question on language diversity, Julien Malard, 04 May 2020

    Very interesting and thank you very much for brining attention to this very crucial aspect of geoscience (and really all) research!

    I have seen these problems on an annecdotal basis and very much enjoy seeing them analysed more scientifically.

    I wanted to ask you what solutions you believe we could bring regarding languages. I have found that a very often overlooked part of the discrimination that keeps many people (especially, but not only, non-Europeans) out of formal science is that much research only takes place in English. I just wanted to comment on a few solutions and barriers that I have noticed, and ask you what you think of them.

    1. Some conferences (such as JpGU and many conferences here in Québec) have multilingual conferences, with different sessions having different languages or language combinations and then leaving participants free to present in and attend different sessions as they wish.

    2. Many countries have journals that publish in different languages (I have seen French, Farsi, Hindi, Spanish, Kaqchikel, Chinese, Japanese and Arabic, to name a few). However, few journals accept publications in more than one language, even if authors are willing to translate themselves. In addition, I have found that a certain number of Western(ised) scientists tend to consider publications in other languages (and often those who write them!) as somehow "less scientific," for some reason.

    3. And, finally, there is what I would call the "chicken and egg" problem. For example, while China and Iran do have strong scientific communities in their respective languages, this is not the case for all countries. For instance, 85% of Indians do not speak English. However, nearly all universities there (and most publications) are in English. Therefore, nearly 100% of Indian academics come from the 15% that does speak English and can go to university and start an academic career, which reduces the visibility of the rest of the Indian population in academic circles (both Indian and international) and any pressure for more diversity or system change. This is a dynamic that I feel exists in many other countries as well (e.g., many African ones).

    So, in brief, my question to you would be: what do you recommend we do, as an international community, to increase diversity in conferences, publications, and academia in general, especially with regards to providing more multilingual opportunities and ensuring that all work (regardless of language) has an equal chance at evaluation and dissemination? What would you recommend be done at different levels (e.g., university professors, individual researchers, conference committees, journal boards)?

    Many thanks!

    Julien Malard

    • AC1: Reply to CC1, Melinda Dósa, 05 May 2020

      Dear Julien Malard,

      Thank you for your comment. I have to admit, I have not yet thought about this problem yet, you will see why. My answer now is just the summary of the first thoughts I have and I do not mean to offend anyone. The topic is open for discussion, so I can be persuaded. :)

      I know it is a barrier for some people to present and publish in a foreign language, but I do not know any better. I think it is a great thing that science has a shared language, and that English is much easier than Latin was in the old times.

      I think, if we present something to an audience, we should first think about the audience: how the message transmits more effectively, how the community benefits more of my talk.
      The other question, how it is more convenient for me, comes later. Maybe, that does not sound very inclusive, but we have sooo many languages here, and nobody speaks my language (Hungarian), just my colleagues and some Martians. We were brought up with this... if you want to speak to foreigners, you have to learn their language. You can't expect them to learn yours. 

      Thinking about the skyrocketing number of Chinese participants, we could introduce Chinese audioguides, interpreters - but they would reach only the Chinese scientists and this would be only a one-way message transfer. You can't call it communication. 
      Thinking of those genius colleagues, who are struggling with English / or presenting in front of many people or are too old / whatever... they can pre-record their talk and present the video, or they can ask a student to do the talking, a volunteer to translate the abstract or find other solutions. 
      In Europe, I would not encourage other languages, but I would encourage people to find these solutions. (If I did, French speakers appeared in great numbers, and that would exclude most Eastern Europeans.)

      There might be local solutions, though. In  Eastern Europe most languages are Slavic. Hungarian is not, so I would not benefit anything from it, but I have heard from a Serbian colleague, that once when he could not remember a word in English, he was encouraged to say it in Serbian, and the audience (mainly Slavic) understood. 

      What could be done at different levels? Well, universities can put more emphasis on English lecturing - yes, even if it sounds contradictory - but that would make it easier for Hungarians/ Eastern Europeans / everybody to present their work in an international environment.
      Conference committees... maybe there could be a session on "Best African / Asian / ..non-English papers of the year". ?
      Journal boards - sorry I have no experience in this, don't know how they are organised and how they work. But since most journals appear online and there are no printing costs, no burden on the environment, I do not see why it should be a problem to publish translations. 

      thanks again for the comments,

      Melinda

      p.s. Can you share the annecdote with us?

      • CC3: Reply to AC1, Katya Dimitrova Petrova, 05 May 2020

        Hi Melinda and thanks for your presentation (I just tweeted about it).

        I totally agree that while keeping English as a central language we should find solutions and ways around for the people that have had less opportunities to reach a good level of English.

        In a few seminars in the Netherlands we had the teacher speak in Dutch, while having the slides in English. That helped everybody and no one felt excluded.

         

        I saw a presentation on learning materials in soil sciences from Spanish Soil Sciences: they made comics for kids in english, italian, portugese and spanish.

        I feel lke translating efforts of scientific material (articles, presentations, comics!) should be encouraged and even paid for. I research mainly in English, but find even more info in Spanish and Bulgarian, which gives me an advantage. So, if anyone is frustrated because they are not native English speakers think about this "Hey! I know more than 1 language!"

        • CC8: Reply to CC3, Julien Malard, 29 May 2020

          Hello,

          Interesting! I do like the idea of getting paid. Though even when it is not possible, science being a field where the main “currency” is not money but rather evaluations for positions and funding, perhaps simply explicitly giving this type of outreach and dissemination work more weight in these evaluations could be enough to motivate people.

          And I do agree, I often find quite interesting articles in a variety of languages (and that apart from invaluable oral knowledge from fieldwork).

          Thank you!

          Julien Malard

      • CC5: Reply to AC1, Julien Malard, 29 May 2020

        Hello,

        Thank you for the responses and apologies for the delay!

        I think that it is a tenet of human society that people will communicate in languages in which they feel have the most impact and in which they are comfortable communicating in - though that will not be English for everyone. As a matter of fact there are active scientific communities in many other languages (though not as many as I hope we will have someday), and I think that the more languages are published, the more diverse and productive science will become. And I certainly agree with you that, if we want to speak to foreigners, there is no getting around learning a foreign language (though that applies to all – for instance, not just Indians in Europe but also Europeans in India!) It is of course unfortunate that a few scientists (and quite unfortunately some anonymous funding agency reviewers...) tend to view non-anglophone scientific communities as not being "real scientists". But I do have hope that we will be able to improve this situation, just as we are finally having some success in addressing many other breeds of discrimination in the sciences!

        For conferences, as you said, I think that there is not one simple solution, but that if making conferences more multilingual became an explicit goal, a variety of solutions could be developed (part interpreters, part bilingual sessions, part bilingual presentations – all based on the situation of the conference and the choice of the presenters).

        Regarding Latin, incidentally, I was just reading an article (https://www.wired.com/story/coding-is-for-everyoneas-long-as-you-speak-english/) on the subject of how writing in Europe itself started off as unique to Latin before becoming more diverse. The topic is about coding but I found that it is relevant to a lot of academia as well. Of course, if we had to choose the “easiest” language for all to use, I would have to vote for Malaysian.

        And finally, regarding the anecdote: it was not related to inclusion of Eastern Europe specifically (you have opened my eyes about that) but I had noticed before that it is still quite rare for publications in “good” journals not to have a European (or “Western”) senior scientist or first author. I am still not sure of the main cause, but it did shock me when I began my PhD literature review. And when conducting research in India in Tamil (and not letting on that I knew English – being European Caucasian I already had much more privilege than I was comfortable being accorded) I was once told by a faculty member, matter-of-factly with no malice intended, that I was nobody if I could not speak English!

        I see that with my delay in responding, we are very close to the deadline for posting comments, so I will leave my email (julien.malard@mail.mcgill.ca) in case anyone gets around to answering me after June 1st. Thank you again for the enlightening presentation and discussion! While I had some experiences regarding inclusion of languages, I do find that all the discussion has broadened my understanding of many more types of inclusion. I had not even known about the east-west European representation difference before!

        Many thanks, apologies for the long response, and I do hope that we can stay in touch,

        Julien Malard

    • CC2: Reply to CC1, Maria Bostenaru Dan, 05 May 2020

      I have often problems with German, from both Germans (who say I am a foreigner so I shall write in English because my German is not native, but my German is still better than my English) and foreigners (who asked why write in German when the scientific community communicates in English). In Germany however many "international" conferences are in German as required by the paying audience.

      I was also in Rome in the environment of cultural institutes, where Italian and the language of the country of the institute are used instead. And there more languages "of international circulation" were encouraged.

      Also some journals of my university publish bilingual in Romanian and English.

      • CC6: Reply to CC2, Julien Malard, 29 May 2020

        Hello,

        Thank you for the response and apologies for the delay! In case I am too late for replies, my email is julien.malard@mail.mcgill.ca.

        Ah, yes, I often get the same in India and Latin America (I am white but French and not English, which seems to be considered something of an oddity). And that is quite interesting; which institutes were these in Rome? (And would you happen to be able to share the names of those journals? I am currently looking to increase the diversity of publications on my CV!)

        Thank you,

        Julien Malard

        • CC9: foreign institutes in Rome, Maria Bostenaru Dan, 29 May 2020

          Hi,

          In Rome there are the cultural institutes of the country. I guess it is the same for any place where there are cultural institutes, to use the language of the country represented and the language of the host country, not English. But in Rome there are more of them, there is even a month of international culture in June, as Rome was a pilgership place for humanities and for artists.

          Not all of them have journals, I think, but for example Accademia di Romania where I was has a journal, it is called Ephemeris Dacoromana. I am not sure it is still printed these days, you have to check. But the same applied for the ANNUARIO dell'Istituto Romeno di Cultura e Ricerca Umanistica di Venezia X-XI, (2008-2009) which also has more languages. These are the two cultural, but also research institutions of Romania in Italy. But it might be the same for other, as they have fellows who need to publish. It is an interesting topic to make a directory of these, thank you.

        • CC10: Romanian journal, Maria Bostenaru Dan, 29 May 2020

          I forgot to tell, one bilingual journal, Romanian-English, is Argument. But there are a few more like it in Romania.

    • CC4: Reply to CC1, Scarlet Stadtler, 05 May 2020

      Thank you so much for starting this discussion!

      Keeping English as a central language for scientific communication might be the only particable option, but I wonder how to encourage people to use several languages in their scientific communication. 

      And how to make these articles in Chinese, Japanese, Arabic .... accessible for people who cannot read the language at all? Honestly, I sometimes came across papers in a language I did not understand, and I was not even able to download them! No chance to even try to use Google Translate. 

       

      Until now I did not notice that papers which are not written in English, should be perceived as "scientifically" as the ones written in English. But actually, I did not think a lot about it, so thank you again for broadening my horizon!

       

      Scarlet Stadtler

      • CC7: Reply to CC4, Julien Malard, 29 May 2020

        Hello,

        Thank you for the response and apologies for the delay! In case I am too late for replies, my email is julien.malard@mail.mcgill.ca.

        Regarding translations, I would recommend that all online journals offer the option for authors to add as many translations as they would like to provide, and that, even after publication of the original text. That way people could make their articles (regardless of the original language) as accessible as possible.

        I also wish that we could aspire to a system more like fiction writing, where everyone writes in their own language and the best, most prestigious stories (like Harry Potter and Tintenhertz) are the ones that get translated so that everyone can read them. (Rather the opposite of what we have now.) I think that efforts spent to connect existing linguistic communities (and to encourage equal development in each one) would go a long way towards increasing diversity in the sciences.

        Thank you for this discussion!

        Julien Malard

        P.S. One trick I and some of my international colleagues use to find the download button for papers in languages I can’t read is the Google Translate browser plugin. The translations can be entertaining but I can usually figure out what was meant. Some colleagues of mine also use the Google document translate function to translate PDFs.

Presentation version 1 – uploaded on 30 Apr 2020
  • CC1: "Western European Geosciences Union", Maria Bostenaru Dan, 02 May 2020

    Very interesting presentation, indeed.

    Last year I saw a presentation in which a Romanian working in the West said at the EGU there is only one in the higher committee from Eastern Europe (probably Ira Didenkulova).

    However, although being from Eastern Europe, I am co-convener. I started when I was in Germany, then continued in Italy, and also 2 years after returning to Romania. Then I went on with the same session but as co-convener since already 6 years if I am not wrong. But only this year we remained two from Eastern Europe, me and the Russian main convener, before we had always co-conveners from the West. Not so much as (co-)convener, but as author, I've noticed that I had it easier when being in Germany, although I was young and definitely my research wasn't at the level it is now, then in Italy it was still OK because the institution was international and renowned (this year a 3rd person from that institution gets an EGU award), and then in Romania where I had 3 different affiliations it was more difficult. I was sure it has to do with it!

    Another problem, while discussing with EGU staff that they'd like to encourage participation (surely not the organisers are turning down Eastern Europeans), is funding. Although I am running the session since 20 years, it became more and more difficult to fund my travel, and always an exercise of imagination to find some sources to mostly only partially cover. This year for example there was no funding anymore, so maybe better online.