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      Latin American Plea for Incorporation of Other, Non-English Languages in TDWG Standards Documentation

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          Abstract

          Historically, some of the most successful biodiversity data sharing initiatives have been developed particularly in North America, Europe, and Australia. In parallel, and driven by necessity, tools, practices and standards were shared across othes communities. In the last decade, great efforts have been made by countries in other regions to join the biodiversity data network and share their data worldwide. Although knowledge, tools, and documentation are broadly distributed, language is the main constraint for their use, as most of it is only available in English. English may be the first most spoken language worldwide (Eberhard et al. 2020), but it is not native to most of the population, including a sizable proportion of the United States (Ryan 2013). For instance, Spanish is listed as the second most spoken native language worldwide, after Mandarin Chinese (Eberhard et al. 2020). While recognizing that English is currently considered the “universal language” for scientifically-related activities, it has been pointed out that a large proportion of biodiversity scientific knowledge is not produced in English, and that language constitutes a barrier to sharing knowledge (Amano et al. 2016). Actions to overcome this have been called for, for example by the 2nd Global Biodiversity Informatics Conference (GBIC2) in its list of ambitions for supporting international collaboration (Hobern et al. 2019), but are still largely missing in the broad community.Language affects the understanding and use of biodiversity data standards and related documentation for all the community, both English and non-English speakers. Our findings in the Latin American region suggest that the availability of materials in other languages, namely Spanish and Portuguese, would greatly benefit the region and improve our involvement in biodiversity data sharing. Also, on the other hand, the English speaking community would benefit from better understanding knowledge in other non-English languages, allowing broader use of data from all regions. This work also constitutes a plea from the Latin American and the Spanish-speaking community at large to the Biodiversity Information Standards (TDWG) to explore and incorporate other languages, hence fostering understanding, and therefore widening the use of TDWG standards in our region. We provide a list of people supporting the petition as Supplementary Material (Suppl. material 1). In the petition we also identify people (more than 60% of the signatories) who are willing to contribute to translating TDWG resources into Spanish. There is no single, best mechanism to move this initiative forward, but the approaches of some other initiatives (e.g., the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) translators network) are being explored, weighing resources needed both from the volunteers and the management perspectives. We will present the different options for the community to evaluate and decide upon a suitable action plan.

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          Languages Are Still a Major Barrier to Global Science

          While it is recognized that language can pose a barrier to the transfer of scientific knowledge, the convergence on English as the global language of science may suggest that this problem has been resolved. However, our survey searching Google Scholar in 16 languages revealed that 35.6% of 75,513 scientific documents on biodiversity conservation published in 2014 were not in English. Ignoring such non-English knowledge can cause biases in our understanding of study systems. Furthermore, as publication in English has become prevalent, scientific knowledge is often unavailable in local languages. This hinders its use by field practitioners and policy makers for local environmental issues; 54% of protected area directors in Spain identified languages as a barrier. We urge scientific communities to make a more concerted effort to tackle this problem and propose potential approaches both for compiling non-English scientific knowledge effectively and for enhancing the multilingualization of new and existing knowledge available only in English for the users of such knowledge.
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            Connecting data and expertise: a new alliance for biodiversity knowledge

            Abstract There has been major progress over the last two decades in digitising historical knowledge of biodiversity and in making biodiversity data freely and openly accessible. Interlocking efforts bring together international partnerships and networks, national, regional and institutional projects and investments and countless individual contributors, spanning diverse biological and environmental research domains, government agencies and non-governmental organisations, citizen science and commercial enterprise. However, current efforts remain inefficient and inadequate to address the global need for accurate data on the world's species and on changing patterns and trends in biodiversity. Significant challenges include imbalances in regional engagement in biodiversity informatics activity, uneven progress in data mobilisation and sharing, the lack of stable persistent identifiers for data records, redundant and incompatible processes for cleaning and interpreting data and the absence of functional mechanisms for knowledgeable experts to curate and improve data. Recognising the need for greater alignment between efforts at all scales, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) convened the second Global Biodiversity Informatics Conference (GBIC2) in July 2018 to propose a coordination mechanism for developing shared roadmaps for biodiversity informatics. GBIC2 attendees reached consensus on the need for a global alliance for biodiversity knowledge, learning from examples such as the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health (GA4GH) and the open software communities under the Apache Software Foundation. These initiatives provide models for multiple stakeholders with decentralised funding and independent governance to combine resources and develop sustainable solutions that address common needs. This paper summarises the GBIC2 discussions and presents a set of 23 complementary ambitions to be addressed by the global community in the context of the proposed alliance. The authors call on all who are responsible for describing and monitoring natural systems, all who depend on biodiversity data for research, policy or sustainable environmental management and all who are involved in developing biodiversity informatics solutions to register interest at https://biodiversityinformatics.org/ and to participate in the next steps to establishing a collaborative alliance. The supplementary materials include brochures in a number of languages (English, Arabic, Spanish, Basque, French, Japanese, Dutch, Portuguese, Russian, Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese). These summarise the need for an alliance for biodiversity knowledge and call for collaboration in its establishment.
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              Author and article information

              Contributors
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              Journal
              Biodiversity Information Science and Standards
              BISS
              Pensoft Publishers
              2535-0897
              September 29 2020
              September 29 2020
              : 4
              Article
              10.3897/biss.4.58973
              © 2020

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