Machine Translation and Scholarly Communication

Project description

Over the past half-century, English has become entrenched as the dominant language of scholarly communication. While using a single language for scholarly communication offers some benefits, it also presents numerous disadvantages (e.g. added time and financial burdens for non-Anglophone scholars, linguistic gatekeeping). In recent years, the scholarly community has begun to support efforts to increase linguistic diversity in research and dissemination. For instance, both the Helsinki Initiative (co-founded by the SCRG head Emanuel Kulczycki) and UNESCO’s Recommendation on Open Science encourage scholars to disseminate their research in their own language. While multilingual publishing will break down many barriers, it also introduces some practical challenges. If everyone publishes in their own language, how will members of the scholarly community be able to discover, read or contribute to the literature effectively? The overarching goal of this research project is to investigate whether and how automatic machine translation tools (e.g. Google Translate or DeepL Translator) can support scholars in the context of multilingual scholarly communication.

The project has two main thrusts. The first seeks to survey a subset of Polish scholars to discover the extent to which machine translation is already used in this community, as well as the ways in which it is implemented (or not). The second major element of the project involves investigating whether plain language can be combined with machine translation tools in order to improve the quality of the machine translation output. This investigation will involve applying plain language techniques to scientific abstracts and comparing the machine translated versions of the original abstracts and their corresponding plain language summaries to develop guidelines that will help scholars to prepare abstracts in a more translation-friendly way.

 The project is financed by the Polish National Agency for Scientific Exchange (NAWA). Lynne Bowker is the Principal Investigator.

Picture by Gerd Altmann on Pixabay.