Open Access Week: Towards a Multilingual Approach

The theme for this year’s International Open Access Week is “Open with Purpose: Taking Action to Build Structural Equity and Inclusion.” This is a time to reflect on how “the systems and spaces of the present are often built upon legacies of historic injustice” and to “examine who these spaces and systems are designed for, who is missing, who is excluded by the business models we use, and whose interests are prioritized.” (The 2020 Open Access Advisory Committee) In the spirit of this year’s theme, and with the intent of using a truly international lens, it’s important to highlight the need to incorporate multilingual approaches to the tools we use, the norms we adopt, and the research we undertake or publish. Below are a few suggested readings that can help you get started on understanding the structural barriers to multilingualism and how to overcome them. 

The Dangers of English as Lingua Franca of Journals – This article by Mary Jane Curry and Theresa Lillis touches on the burden faced by scholars whose first language isn’t English as English is increasingly treated as the global language of scholarly publishing. It points out how foreign language journals are often excluded from prestigious journal indexes, restricting access to them. This article also lists the barriers faced by multilingual scholars who in order to be published in English mediums need access to translators familiar with academic English, disciplinary content, and journal conventions, as well as funds to translate, all while being unable to share their work in their local language due to taboos against “dual publishing.” For anglophone researchers and publishers, they recommend, when reviewing texts, being more tolerant of nonstandard varieties of English, finding ways to support multilingual colleagues, and reconsidering the ban on “dual publishing” so that research could be published in the local language. 

A Case for Multilingual Open-Access Academic Publishing – This post by Amir Kalan details his experience with publishing a Farsi edition of his 2016 book “Who’s Afraid of Multilingual Education?” and some of the barriers that International scholars face in writing in a language other than their mother tongue and competing with English speaking scholars who may be better connected to anglophone academic publishing. Kalan also talks about the financial and political difficulties Iranian teachers would have faced in obtaining an English language copy of the book. In obtaining the rights to translate from his publisher, he was able to provide access to local educators so that the conversation in the book was “no longer about them but with them.” 

The Institutionalized Racism of Scholarly Publishing – This post by Ryan Regier analyzes the impact of institutionalized racism on the ways we evaluate non-Western and non-English academic journals. He shares his experience of seeing his own bias in judging a publication for awkward English phrasing and learning to do better. Regier also gives a series of recommendations including being aware of our own biases, shifting how we talk about predatory publishers, using databases that capture output from international publishers and researchers, making an effort to search non-English sources, and talking more openly about issues of privilege and discrimination in scholarly publishing. 

An Antiracist Framework for Scholarly Publishing – A lack of multilingual approaches in scholarly publishing can be seen as a manifestation of other longstanding disparities in the industry. This guest post on The Scholarly Kitchen by  Niccole Coggins, Jocelyn Dawson, Melanie Dolechek, and Gisela Concepción Fosado calls for a shift in practices in scholarly publishing that will ensure that “scholarly publications reach their widest possible audience and provide scholars a path to publication unimpeded by bias” as well as an evaluation of the impact of a lack of diversity in the industry. It also includes a link to the Antiracism Toolkit for Allies from the Coalition for Diversity and Inclusion in Scholarly Communications

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