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Dear reader, dear colleagues all around the world,

this is a personal declaration and a policy statement.

Volume 52 of this journal appears in a different form. One of the elements which are most noticeable externally is the reduction of the non-English parts in the original article section, particularly the omission of the Zusammenfassungen and the Résumés. This change recognises the obvious fact that English has become the lingua franca of science today.

This, however, does not justify to any extent ignoring papers in other languages. Since, for instance, the foundation of epigenetics has been first summarised by Le Double who wrote in French or since the first and most comprehensive papers on enamel hypoplasia were published by Berten in German, the author of a respective paper today must read French or German or obtain relevant translations. If he/she does not, then this work becomes seriously flawed in terms of one of the most important quality criteria for scientific work, the due acknowledgement of important existing contributions to the field. This criterion has been stressed by many compendia, laws and bylaws on ethical behaviour in science and is e.g. included in the Helsinki Declaration. If the author of a paper submitted to HOMO does not comply with the requirement of due acknowledgement of all contributions to the relevant field of work, irrespective of the language in which they were published, that paper will not pass the editorial review process in HOMO.

A living language as the lingua franca poses, in contrast to the use of Latin in Mediaeval and Renaissance times, consequential problems: scientists from English speaking countries tend to disregard work produced in other cultures, the others, the vast majority of the world who do not speak English at home, tend to focus on the work of mother-tongue English writers. Both effects lead to a serious loss of ideas and a disregard of a substantial body of facts and data, and both are a violation of the internationality and openness of science.

We recommend to every consumer of written science to check the percentage of non-English entries in the bibliography of a paper or a book. If there is not one: please ignore it, it is seriously biased.

Naturally there are exceptions to this rule, e.g. simple basic lab reports and very young subfields like DNA method development. For the remainder, the bulk of serious scientific publication, this holds true. In comparative human biology at present about one-third of works quoted should be in languages other than English.This will obviously vary between subfields and character of contribution, and this percentage will reduce as the time goes on and most new works are published in English, but, as a rule, nil is bias.

As always, the quality of papers submitted to HOMO will be judged on all sound scientific criteria. The fact that the editors and most of the board members of our journal are able to read papers in several languages other than English will help to maintain breadth and quality of our journal's content.

Summer 2001

Fw Rösing, Editor

Document Type: Original Article


Publication date: 2001-07-01

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