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How Good is Online Scientific Info in Different Languages?

Some people are science literate; They can find scientific information easily and know how to use it in times of need, or when they want to.

However, many people are not able to do this easily for many reasons.

One of the main reasons is the “language divide": the disparities between those who know dominant languages well and those who do not.

Although the language divide is an important aspect of science learning, so far, little is known about the availablity of scientific information online in different languages.

Research Question

Does the quality of online scientific information vary between languages and scientific fields?

Methods

We collected online search results regarding scientific terms in English, Hebrew, and Arabic, analyzed their content, and rated their scientific and pedagogical quality.

The terms belonged to three scientific fields (domains): Physics, chemistry and biology.

Statistical methods included univariate and multivariate ANOVA and Linear Discriminant Analysis (LDA).

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Note: The Linear Discriminant Analysis was conducted by Dr. Eyal Nitzany.

Findings

Findings indicate that searches in English yielded overall higher quality results, compared with Hebrew and Arabic, but mostly in pedagogical aspects, rather than scientific ones.

The differences in information quality were more better explained by the language factor than by the scientific field factor (Figure 1).

Clustering the results by language yielded better separation than clustering by scientific field (Figure 2). This finding points to a “language divide” in access to online science content.

Conclusion

We discovered that the quality of online scientific information differs across languages.

Scientific communities and institutions should take action to mitigate this problem. One way they could do this is by making high-quality information available in additional languages.

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Figure 1. Effects of language and field on combined measures of information quality—MANOVA results. One, two, and three bullets (•, ••, and •••) denote statistical significance at the .05, .01, and .001 levels, respectively.

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Figure 2. LDA of search terms (a) by language (colors) and (b) by field (shapes). (c) Differences in quality (areas of the triangles on the LDA plane) between equivalent terms in different languages. LD1 and LD2: First and second linear discriminants, respectively.

Press Releases and Media Coverage

Citation

Zoubi, K., Sharon, A. J., Nitzany, E., & Baram-Tsabari, A. (2021). Science, maddá and ‘ilm: The language divide in scientific information available to internet users. Public Understanding of Science. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1177/09636625211022975

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Open Access