26.06.2024 | Biodiversity Conservation, Media Release, TOP NEWS

Closing the Biodiversity Knowledge Gap: Unlocking Biodiversity Insights from the Tropical Andes

Researchers in the Tropical Andes often struggle to share their unique insights into these complex ecosystems with the global scientific community. (Picture: Fernanda Lacerda)

Researchers in the Tropical Andes often struggle to share their unique insights into these complex ecosystems with the global scientific community. (Picture: Fernanda Lacerda)

Note for the media: Use of the pictures provided by iDiv is permitted for reports related to this media release only, and under the condition that credit is given to the picture originator.

Report by Jose Valdez, postdoctoral researcher of Biodiversity Conservation at iDiv and Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU)

Despite hosting some of the world's most biodiverse ecosystems and the urgency of the region's conservation challenges, researchers in Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru often struggle to share their unique insights into these complex ecosystems with the global scientific community. This results in a "publication gap" where crucial biodiversity knowledge from the region remains underrepresented in global conversations.

Untapped Knowledge, Global Impact

“The Tropical Andes hold a wealth of local biodiversity knowledge, yet our work remains largely unseen.” highlights co-author Lucía Castro Vergara of the Asociación para la Conservación de la Cuenca Amazónica (ACCA). "While neighbouring countries like Brazil, Mexico, and Colombia are prolific publishers, the Tropical Andes trails behind leaving an untapped reservoir of biodiversity knowledge inaccessible to the global scientific community."

To address this disparity, we conducted a comprehensive study, which combined in-depth surveys of over 500 scientists across the region with targeted workshops designed to help researchers overcome obstacles to publication.

The Roadblocks to Knowledge-Sharing

The survey results highlighted several interconnected challenges that contribute to the lower publication rates of researchers in the Tropical Andes, including:

  1. Lack of sufficient training and institutional support structures for navigating the publishing process, leaving researchers feeling overwhelmed and ill-equipped
  2. Severe limitations in funding and resources available for scientific research, constraining access to high-impact journals and essential materials
  3. Language barriers in publishing in English-language journals, a significant hurdle given the relatively lower English proficiency in the region
  4. Weaker incentives and limited institutional pressure to publish, as career advancement may not prioritize academic journal publications
  5. Personal challenges such as inadequate understanding and experience in the publication process, resulting in self-doubt, fear of rejections, time constraints, and difficulties in manuscript preparation

Surprisingly, the overwhelming majority of participants were experienced professionals with advanced degrees, with around two-thirds stating they had research ready for publication. This highlights a wealth of untapped scientific contributions and underscores the personal and systematic barriers to publishing their work.

Strategies for Change

To overcome these challenges, survey respondents proposed strategies focused on:

  1. Expanding training initiatives on the publication process, starting at the undergraduate level, and organizing specialized workshops on academic writing and communication.
  2. Facilitating collaborative research networks, interdisciplinary cooperation, and institutional support systems to foster knowledge exchange and a sense of community.
  3. Providing wider access to essential resources like literature, data, and writing tools, and leveraging free and cost-effective platforms to optimize workflow.
  4. Implementing recognition, awards, and career advancement incentives that value meaningful, high-impact publications with societal relevance.
  5. Cultivating a research culture that emphasizes the importance of openly sharing data and findings for the advancement of science and society.

Empowering the Voices of Andean Biodiversity

With biodiversity loss accelerating due to human activities and climate change, closing this publication gap is vital for evidence-based conservation policies and sustainable development in the Tropical Andes. Our study offers a tangible roadmap for nurturing local scientific knowledge to enrich the global knowledge ecosystem. By empowering the voices of local researchers, we can unlock the full potential of this irreplaceable region to inform evidence-based conservation efforts and sustainable development.

“Given the urgency of our region's environmental issues, we need to offer practical solutions that accelerate the transfer of knowledge into decision-making and elevate local research to ensure their insights are part of the global scientific discourse," said co-author Dr. Miguel Fernandez (iDiv, MLU). 


Original publication
(Researchers with iDiv affiliation and alumni bolded)

Valdez, J.W., Castro Vergara, L., Orihuela, and Fernandez, M. (2024). Overcoming the Tropical Andes publication divide: insights from local researchers on challenges and solutions. PLOS ONE, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0306189



Dr Jose W. Valdez(speaks English and Spanish)
Postdoctoral Researcher
Biodiversity Conservation research group
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
Phone: +49 341 9739168
Email: jose.valdez@idiv.de
Web: www.idiv.de/en/profile/1290.html


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