Datafication, Hemispheres, and Publishing

Perhaps only marginally related to the OERigins reading, but still of global significance in our field, this post from Laura Czerniewicz

Laura cites several wide ranging studies of published research that indicates authors in the southern hemisphere seem to be asked more often to include the names of the countries where their research takes place in the titles, which then results on lower impact scores in metrics of citation.

I want to talk about something that happened in the peer review process, which is that one reviewer recommended – twice- that the country where the empirical study took place, and where the authors are located, should be mentioned in the title.

The journal editors are in the UK, and the journal has an international readership. LMAT is known for astutely raising critical issues of international interest. We did not agree with this recommendation, because if we used our country in the title, we felt that this that it would signal that the issues were of local interest only, and less likely to be read. Fortunately, the LMAT editor agreed with us.

Our instinct is backed by evidence. One study which analyzed research between 2004 and 2011 found publications with a country name systematically receive lower impact values both at the general level and by subject category (Abramo et al 2016). This is confirmed by another study which analysed a longer period, which found that mentioning a country in either the title or the abstract is associated with lower citation rates, and that this is observed for every country when all disciplines are combined (Archambault 2017).

The findings are especially marked when comparing the global south and the global north. A 2022 study analyzed half a million social science research articles indexed between 1996 to 2020 finding that “empirical articles written by authors affiliated to institutions of the global North, using data from these countries, are less likely to include a concrete geographical reference in their titles. When authors are affiliated to global South institutions, and use evidence from global South countries, the names of these countries are more likely to be part of the article’s title”.

We agree with the authors of the 2022 paper that evidence from and about the global north is assumed to be more universal. The assumption of a paper named as from the global south is probably that it is a case study, reflecting or exemplifying a local case, quite possibly of an issue described elsewhere as being relevant by researcher from the north. It is less likely to be regarded to be making a general point of broad interest.