Worldwide, the English language has become the scientific lingua franca: 80 per cent of the science published in journals is in English. Yet science itself is increasingly globalised, as research in the South proliferates along with industrialisation.
In this article, Scott Montgomery says that scientists with little or no English can suffer intellectual isolation, unable to publish or participate fully in international conferences. The explosion in science specialisms can set up other potential barriers to communication.
While decrying the plight of non-English speaking scientists, Montgomery says there is no need for fatalism: English doesn't rule all of science, and specialist jargon has actually inspired new crossover disciplines and sharing of terminology.
Reference: Science 303, 1333 (2004)