Culturally diverse expert teams have yet to bring comprehensive linguistic diversity to intergovernmental ecosystem assessments

Abigail J. Lynch*, Álvaro Fernández-Llamazares, Ignacio Palomo, Pedro Jaureguiberry, Tatsuya Amano, Zeenatul Basher, Michelle Lim, Tuyeni Heita Mwampamba, Aibek Samakov, Odirilwe Selomane

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Multicultural representation is a stated goal of many global scientific assessment processes. These processes aim to mobilize a broader, more diverse knowledge base and increase legitimacy and inclusiveness of these assessment processes. Often, enhancing cultural diversity is encouraged through involvement of diverse expert teams and sources of knowledge in different languages. In this article, we examine linguistic diversity, as one representation of cultural diversity, in the eight published assessments of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). Our results show that the IPBES assessment outputs are disproportionately filtered through English-language literature and authors from Anglophone countries. To incorporate more linguistic diversity into global ecosystem assessment processes, we present actionable steps for global science teams to recognize and incorporate non-English-language literature and contributions from non-Anglophones. Our findings highlight the need for broad-scale actions that enhance inclusivity in knowledge synthesis processes through balanced representation of different knowledge holders and sources. Synthesis of science and knowledge requires integration from multiple scales and diverse sources. Inherent biases and structural inequities within the scientific community favor English-language literature and Anglophone experts. We examined the linguistic diversity of assessment experts, references they consulted, comments they received, and the final reports of eight ecological assessments recently produced by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). We found that, despite encouragement, non-English-language literature was rarely consulted, even in linguistically diverse author teams. Such omission can bias assessments and perpetuate unequal power dynamics in science. The scientific community can work to be more inclusive. Methodological guidelines for these global assessments can facilitate this transition but, ultimately, systemic change is needed to democratize collection and representation of science and knowledge. Multicultural representation is a stated goal of many global scientific assessment processes. We examined linguistic diversity, as one representation of cultural diversity, in the eight published assessments of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). Our analysis shows that having diverse expert teams does not fully address the issue of low linguistic diversity. Further efforts and mechanisms are needed to effectively incorporate linguistically diverse literature and knowledge into ecosystem assessment processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)269-278
Number of pages10
JournalOne Earth
Volume4
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 19 Feb 2021

Keywords

  • cultural diversity
  • intergovernmental process
  • IPBES
  • knowledge
  • language
  • language barriers
  • non-Anglophones
  • non-English languages
  • representation
  • scientific literature

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