Latin America’s bird scientists issue manifesto to end marginalization

Source: Science

Two years ago, a group of ornithologists was outraged by the publication of a paper that highlighted how much scientists still don’t know about birds from Latin America and the Caribbean. Many criticized the authors—based at universities in the United States and the United Kingdom—for citing few studies by scientists from the region and from journals that don’t publish in English. Others said the paper, published in Ornithological Advances, perpetuated an elitist, exclusionary, “northern” approach that has overlooked the knowledge produced by Latin American experts and Indigenous people.

“It made me angry,” recalls bird ecologist Ernesto Ruelas Inzunza of the University of Veracruz in Xalapa, Mexico. “Deliberately or not,” he says, the article ignored “that today’s neotropical ornithology is nurtured by Latin American and Caribbean scientists.” He and others vowed to change that by smashing an array of barriers that they say have long disadvantaged ornithologists from neotropical nations and deprived the field of their contributions. Yesterday, their resolve bore fruit in two papers published in Ornithological Applications.

In one, 124 authors from the region examine numerous factors—including a shortage of funding, few Latin American ornithologists in leadership roles, and a bias against citing papers in Spanish and Portuguese—that they say have often marginalized the region’s researchers. In the other, a smaller group offers 14 recommendations for how the field’s major journals can revise their policies and practices to improve the flow of science from the region’s bird scientists.