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I am an academic in a Portuguese-speaking country, so there is some incentive for me to write in Portuguese. However, much of the literature I deal with is in English, so I would like to publish in journals from anglophone countries.

Given this state of affairs, and given that no matter how many translations are made of a work, the research leading up to it remains one research, I had the idea of maximising my audience by publishing in both in English (abroad) and Portuguese (in my country). That is, I'd like to publish a paper first in a Portuguese-language journal, and then later submit it to an English-language journal, or vice-versa.

However, as we know, originality is typically a requirement in academic journals. But are translations of papers previously published in foreign languages considered "original work"?

At face value, I think the answer might be "no": the work, as a research, has been published elsewhere, so it isn't quite "original". But that would mean that no research published in Portuguese can ever find itself as a translation in an English-language journal, which also sounds a bit exaggerated. If that is the case, what is the appropriate venue for translations?

I'm aware some journals have a policy giving editors discretion to consider exceptions to the originality rule on a case-by-case basis (see e.g. [1]). Still, I was unable to find information on how situations like this are typically treated. Obviously, as a matter of ethics, the original work would be properly referenced in the translation, which would be flagged as such.

So, paraphrasing: is the (original) translation of an academic article previously published in a foreign language considered "original work" for the purposes of publication?

P.S.: I imagine this may differ from field to field. I do research in the fields of law, Social science, and philosophy.

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    It's very important that you are open with the journal you want to publish a translation in. Some journals will publish a translation (and clearly mark it as such). However, you have to take the hurdle of the licensing issues, the journal which published the original paper either needs a license that allows this or needs to grant permission. – Roland Aug 25 at 14:48
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    What comes to mind is to publish in your preferred language, and include a note of the form "Translation into XXX can be found at YYY" – Eugene Styer Aug 25 at 14:50
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No. A translation is not considered an original work in the context of submission to an academic journal whose stated policy is that submissions must be original work that is not published elsewhere.*

You can still send an email to the editor explaining your idea and asking if they’d make an exception to the policy. Some journals, in some circumstances, might consider it.

You can also translate your paper anyway and make the translation available via a paper repository such as arXiv. It will undoubtedly increase the exposure and impact of your work.

*Translation is of course a creative activity requiring skill and expertise, and in other contexts would certainly be considered a kind of original work.

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Why would it be "exaggerated" to think that journals are reluctant to publish findings that have already been published? A journal has limited space to publish articles. They want to maximize the "value" they get out of the articles they publish (prestige, money...). An article that exclusively contains already-known findings is of less value than an article with new findings, plain and simple.

There are some exceptions. If an article is of high value, it may be worthwhile for a generalist journal to publish a translation. Books are a different beast: it is more common to publish translations of books, as they are generally assumed to have a wider readership and a longer-lasting usefulness, and the "space" concern is less pregnant. Finally, some journals specialize in publishing translations. Other than in these cases, I don't think it is likely that a journal would publish a direct translation of an existing article.

As for what you are trying to achieve, I am a bit puzzled. Is there really an incentive for you to publish in Portuguese? I do not work in Portugal, but in a non-anglophone Western European country. The language of my field is English. There is no incentive whatsoever for me to publish my findings in my native language. Anyone remotely interested in reading what I write knows English, and I am personally evaluated on the basis of all my articles, including the ones in English – in fact, almost all the top journals of my field almost only publish in English. So let me ask you: are there really lusophone academics in your field that are not able to read documents in English? Do the incentives to publish in Portuguese really exist? This may happen in specific fields (e.g. if you study the history of Portugal, or the Portuguese language itself), but otherwise, since you claim that most of the literature you read is in English, color me doubtful. What exactly do you gain by publishing in Portuguese?

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  • Thanks for the answer. By "exaggerated", I meant that the consequences of interpreting "original" so as to exclude translations appeared a tad demanding, and seemed to entail an impossibility of publishing translations. As for the incentives for publishing in PT: first, there is a sizeable audience of academics in my country which cannot read English material (or simply isn't used to). As a result, I see a lot of redundancy: findings which are commonplace in anglophone academia are often perceived as cutting-edge novelties in my country. This is especially true in law-related journals. – anon Aug 25 at 14:08
  • In short, I have an incentive to publish in PT (even though much of what I read is in English) because there is a dearth of literature on many fields in the lusophone journals of some of my fields. Plus, publishing locally would also be a plus for "networking" purposes, something important if I choose to seek teaching positions in my country, rather than abroad. – anon Aug 25 at 14:11
  • "pregnant"? Did you mean "present"? – Azor Ahai -- he him Aug 25 at 20:14
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Many journals and universities would consider it plagiarism to publish the same paper in two different languages. If the papers are similar enough that one would be considered plagiarised (or not publishable as not enough novelty) if they were in the same language, then putting one in another language does not change its status.

What are your goals with the Portuguese version? I can understand that some of your legal issues papers may be most appropriate in Portuguese if you want to perhaps have them read by legal practitioners as well as scholars. But you state that much of the material (and therefore the intellectual debate) is in English. If you want to contribute to that discussion, then you presumably need to publish in English.

One approach might be to publish in English but have a blog or other less formal outlet where you summarise and promote the paper (in Portuguese).

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