Inequalities and colonization in scientific life

Inequalities and colonization in scientific life HU
The dominant Western outlook in science is disadvantageous to researchers in emerging countries, and it limits their publication possibilities and the investigation of local problems. Anna Kende and her colleagues examined 232 social psychologists from sixty-four countries and found that representatives of the scientific discipline that studies social inequalities are themselves exposed to double standard as well.

Scientists and colleagues of ELTE PPK (ELTE Faculty of Education and Psychology) sought the answer to how the dominance in scientific and publishing practice of the Western countries have shaped the scientific life of other countries. The survey that included open and closed questions has pointed out a number of asymmetries between the scientific practice of the economically developed countries (including Australia and New Zeeland), shortly referred to as the “Global North”, and the other emerging regions.

For example, participants from Central-Eastern European and Southern countries have reported that only some of their colleagues had the opportunity to publish their research in international journals, while in the case of the Northern countries nearly two third of them had a chance for that. Furthermore, some universities do not provide free access to international journals for their employees and students, therefore often they do not even know these publications.

Contrast to that, more than 70% of respondents thought that the most important criteria to international reputation is publications in English in Q1 journals. Only a few participants thought that publishing in any language in local and regional journals was enough for international success.

The same was true to international collaborations as well: even though most respondents thought that shared projects were invaluable to professional reputation, researchers in Southern countries participated in international projects as project leaders and participants less than their Northern colleagues.

“A few uninteresting data from a distant country”

The survey also asked about what kind of problems social psychologists face when they publish their research in proofread international journals. Respondents reported injustice in the international publication system and unclarity rules. Researchers in Southern regions highlighted the ignorance towards the topics and data of their countries, but it was also mentioned that editors favour their friends when choosing the articles.

The Southern countries also noted that the international literature barely pays attention to topics concerning their countries. On top of that, while problems mentioned by the Northern countries were found to be interesting to researchers from all countries, the questions of corruption, civil conflicts, religious prejudice or prejudice for example against Roma and Chinese communities were only mentioned by Southern and Central-Eastern European scientists. This verifies that colonization shapes what researchers find important in the content of internationalised psychology.

The borders of diversity

All together, the results confirm that while scientists from emerging countries try to follow the research and publication practice of the West, they do not do it out of conviction, but primarily due to institutional pressure.

Authors of the study pointed out that researchers are in some kind of a double bondage as they are compelled to comply with the Western practices and expectations while these are the exact practices and expectations that keep them in a disadvantageous position. So there is some kind of a colonizing outlook in scientific life which underappreciates the local knowledge, influences the choice of topic and makes it difficult to study locally important problems outside of the “Global North” which in a self-powering way maintains the Western dominance of the scientific life. Researchers emphasized that fundamental changes are needed for the development of the scientific discipline of social psychology and for the restoration of scientific diversity. The study of Anna Kende and her colleagues was published in the Journal of Social Issues. Previous study of the author on the topic (in Hungarian): A sokszínűség határai: az Európai Szociálpszichológiai Társaság példája.