Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Only 4% of Editorial Board Members of Top-Ranked Anglophone Philosophy Journals Are from Non-Anglophone Countries

If you're an academic aiming to reach a broad international audience, it is increasingly the case that you must publish in English. Philosophy is no exception. This trend gives native English speakers an academic advantage: They can more easily reach a broad international audience without having to write in a foreign language.

A related question is the extent to which people who make their academic home in Anglophone countries control the English-language journals in which so much of our scholarly communication takes place. One could imagine the situation either way: Maybe the most influential academic journals in English are almost exclusively housed in Anglophone countries and have editorial boards almost exclusively composed of people in those same countries; or maybe English-language journals are a much more international affair, led by scholars from a diverse range of countries.

To examine this question, I looked at the editorial boards of the top 15 ranked journals in Brian Leiter's 2013 poll of "top philosophy journals without regard to area". I noted the primary institution of every board member. (For methodological notes see the supplement at the end.)

In all, 564 editorial board members were included in the analysis. Of these, 540 (96%) had their primary academic affiliation with an institution in an Anglophone country. Only 4% of editorial board members had their primary academic affiliation in a non-Anglophone country.

The following Anglophone countries were represented:

USA: 377 philosophers (67% of total)
UK: 119 (21%)
Australia: 26 (5%)
Canada: 13 (2%)
New Zealand: 5 (1%)

The following non-Anglophone countries were represented:

Germany: 6 (1%)
Sweden: 5 (1%)
Netherlands: 3 (1%)
China (incl. Hong Kong): 2 (<1%)
France: 2 (<1%)
Belgium: 1 (<1%)
Denmark: 1 (<1%)
Finland: 1 (<1%)
Israel: 1 (<1%)
Singapore: 1 (<1%) [N.B.: English is one of four official languages]
Spain: 1 (<1%)

Worth noting: Synthese showed much more international participation than any of the other journals, with 13/31 (42%) of its editorial board from non-Anglophone countries.

It seems to me that if English is to continue in its role as the de facto lingua franca of philosophy (ironic foreign-language use intended!), then the editorial boards of the most influential journals ought to reflect substantially more international participation than this.

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Related Posts:

How Often Do Mainstream Anglophone Philosophers Cite Non-Anglophone Sources? (Sep 8, 2016)

SEP Citation Analysis Continued: Jewish, Non-Anglophone, Queer, and Disabled Philosophers (Aug 14, 2014)

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Methodological Notes:

The 15 journals were Philosophical Review, Journal of Philosophy, Nous, Mind, Philosophy & Phenomenological Research, Ethics, Philosophical Studies, Australasian Journal of Philosophy, Philosopher's Imprint, Analysis, Philosophical Quarterly, Philosophy & Public Affairs, Philosophy of Science, British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, and Synthese. Some of these journals are "in house" or have a regional focus in their editorial boards. I did not exclude them on those grounds. It is relevant to the situation that the two top-ranked journals on this list are edited by the faculty at Cornell and Columbia respectively.

I excluded editorial assistants and managers without without full-time permanent academic appointments (which are typically grad students or publishing or secretarial staff). I included editorial board members, managers, consultants, and staff with full-time permanent academic appointments, including emeritus.

I used the institutional affiliation listed at the journal's "editorial board" website when that was available (even in a few cases where I knew the information to be no longer current), otherwise I used personal knowledge or a web search. In each case, I tried to determine the individual's primary institutional affiliation or most recent primary affiliation for emeritus professors. In a few cases where two institutions were about equally primary, I used the first-listed institution either on the journal's page or on a biographical or academic source page that ranked highly in a Google search for the philosopher.

I am sure I have made some mistakes! I've made the raw data available here. I welcome corrections. However, I will only make corrections in accord with the method above. For example, it is not part of my method to update inaccurate affiliations on the journals' websites. Trying to do so would be unsystematic, disproportionately influenced by blog readers and people in my social circle.

A few mistakes are inevitable in projects of this sort and shouldn't have a large impact on the general findings.

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18 comments:

Manuel Vargas said...

I imagine that there are some Latin American and Africa representation for philosophers located in US/UK etc., but it is notable that (at least in the Latin American case) there are NO philosophers currently based in Africa or Latin America on these boards. Not that any region outside of the US/UK/AU/NZ ambit is doing particularly well.

Have you read Casanova's THE WORLD REPUBLIC OF LETTERS? It might be of interest if you haven't already taken a look.

Ponder Stibbons said...

Nitpicking: most Singaporeans have English as a first language. It's the language of instruction in schools.

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Yes, it's striking! No, I haven't read that. I'll check it out.

John Turri said...

Hi, Eric. Interesting data!

At the end, you write, "It seems to me that if English is to continue in its role as the de facto lingua franca of philosophy (ironic foreign-language use intended!), then the editorial boards of the most influential journals ought to reflect substantially more international participation than this."

One way to agree with this conditional is just to agree with the consequent. But I assume that this is not what you had in mind! Could you say a bit about the reasoning that leads you from the antecedent to the consequent?

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

I'm not sure whether English should continue in that role (though it's convenient for me personally). One future worth considering, if automatic translation improves sufficiently, is for everyone to write in their native language and then have translations between -- though it's hard to imagine perfectly capturing the nuance in this way.

I think that if English continues to be lingua franca, then there are at least the following two reasons to think that editorial boards ought to be more international: (a) the epistemic value of having geographical and native-language diversity among philosophy's gatekeepers, for the usual reasons that diversity is epistemically good, and (b) fairness.

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Thanks for that correction, Ponder! I'll correct with a note about Singapore.

John Turri said...

Hey, Eric. I think those both sound like good reasons. I suppose that the more important a role that English plays in philosophy, the weightier those reasons are. But, interestingly, I think that they sound like good reasons to accept the consequent even if English loses its privileged status. Do you?

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Even if the consequent becomes false, it makes sense to me -- but I think it might also be justifiable to think of those journals as special interest journals. Analogously, given the current state of things I'm not sure I'd insist that the leading Spanish-language journals reach out globally for their editorial boards. There certainly is room in philosophy for journals with a particular regional or linguistic focus -- but 96% Anglophone country affiliation in the top 15 Anglophone journals is too skewed, given how things are right now.

Fran├žois Kammerer said...

Nice and interesting post Eric! (although I must say I am not really surprised by the data)
As a philosopher who works in a non-Anglophone country (France), in a non-Anglophone university (which means that I teach in French, follow seminars and conferences mostly in French, that I wrote my PhD in French, etc.) but sometimes writes papers in English because I want to be read by a wider audience (the French community in philosophy of mind really is quite small), I feel quite concerned by all that. One thing that I must say is particularly bothering from my point of view (beyond the statistical facts you are pointing out) is the fact that it is very difficult (if not impossible) to know what the journal's policies exactly are regarding the linguistic issue.
One personal example: one day an anonymous reviewer (at an Anglophone journal) gave a second R&R to one of my papers on the basis of an evaluation which roughly said: "the paper is interesting, the argument is good, the objections have been correctly answered, there are no linguistic mistakes (NB: I already had the paper proof-read by an English speaker), but there are a few formulations in the text which are correct but not entirely natural, so that the paper sounds as if it was not written by a native speaker. This has to be changed, so R&R". I found it incredibly frustrating. What I really would like is for journals to have clear and public policies regarding language (so that I can know how relaxed they are on this topic), in order for me to I know in advance which journals I can send papers to, and which journals are simply not for me.

Concerning the future, I lean towards what you say. I'd bet that English will remain the lingua franca in academia for the next 20-30 years (I really don't see what other language could be a serious contender now), and that at one point automatic translation will become so efficient that the need to learn and to speak foreign languages for professionnal reasons will virtually disappear.

Fran├žois Kammerer said...

Nice and interesting post Eric! (although I must say I am not really surprised by the data)
As a philosopher who works in a non-Anglophone country (France), in a non-Anglophone university (which means that I teach in French, follow seminars and conferences mostly in French, that I wrote my PhD in French, etc.) but sometimes writes papers in English because I want to be read by a wider audience (the French community in philosophy of mind really is quite small), I feel quite concerned by all that. One thing that I must say is particularly bothering from my point of view (beyond the statistical facts you are pointing out) is the fact that it is very difficult (if not impossible) to know what the journal's policies exactly are regarding the linguistic issue.
One personal example: one day an anonymous reviewer (at an Anglophone journal) gave a second R&R to one of my papers on the basis of an evaluation which roughly said: "the paper is interesting, the argument is good, the objections have been correctly answered, there are no linguistic mistakes (NB: I already had the paper proof-read by an English speaker), but there are a few formulations in the text which are correct but not entirely natural, so that the paper sounds as if it was not written by a native speaker. This has to be changed, so R&R". I found it incredibly frustrating. What I really would like is for journals to have clear and public policies regarding language (so that I can know how relaxed they are on this topic), in order for me to I know in advance which journals I can send papers to, and which journals are simply not for me.

Concerning the future, I lean towards what you say. I'd bet that English will remain the lingua franca in academia for the next 20-30 years (I really don't see what other language could be a serious contender now), and that at one point automatic translation will become so efficient that the need to learn and to speak foreign languages for professionnal reasons will virtually disappear.

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Thanks for the comment, Francois. Yes, that is very frustrating feedback! I like your suggestion that journals be clearer about standards of English beyond whatever is necessary for grammar and comprehensibility.

Eskil Elling said...

Hi Eric,

Thanks for bringing this issue to attention. As a non-anglophone European who believes that his imminent move to the US (for graduate education) has at least something to do with the subject of this post, I think it merits discussion.

I do have one question, though, and maybe this is unnecessarily complicating the issue. But I wonder how much these results are tied to the fact that the poll was conducted by Brian Leiter. I imagine people participating here will be mostly those who lean towards the Anglophone philosophy community already. For instance, I currently live in France and can easily imagine local journals being more important for reputation etc. here than at least a good number of those ranked by the poll.

I guess this comes down to a question of the degree to which we can speak of a truly international philosophy community (in the non-obvious sense of one which has a common "public sphere"). Obviously, if we can't, that might simply reduce the relevance of your consideration of fairness. But we might still feel that your epistemic reason for paying greater attention to non-anglophone philosophers has a lot of value. I definitely do, and wouldn't underestimate the fairness issue either. In the end, I suppose my question here is whether the first step to address this wouldn't be challenging the reliability of polls conducted in this way. I hope this doesn't come off as overly critical, mostly I'm just a little confused about this methodological aspect. But of course you have to rely on the data that exists…

Karen Margrethe Nielsen said...

Just to state the obvious: institutional affiliation is a poor proxy for judging mother tongues. How many of the editorial board members grew up in non-Anglophone countries? How many grew up bilingual? How many hold at least one degree from a non-Anglophone university? So many of my colleagues in Oxford started out as ESL graduate students, and many retain connections to their country of birth or to linguistic communities other than Anglophone ones. There seem to be several worries run together here – about the dominance of English as an academic language, about the dominance of academic institutions in (primarily) Anglophone countries, and about the linguistic backgrounds of members of editorial boards.

It is also problematic to assume that academics in non-Anglophone countries will necessarily be fluent in the dominant local language. That hasn't been the case for a while: the adoption of English as a language of research has also made it possible for non-Anglophone universities to hire non-native speakers. It happens everywhere – in Brazil, in Israel, Norway, Turkey.

As for automatic translation: what a sad thought. If philosophical prose really is that artless, then why bother trying to write well? Translation really is an art, and that goes for translating philosophical prose no less than for literature. I would certainly struggle to translate my own papers into fluent Norwegian. The arguments were thought out in English, using English style (short sentences, stock phrases) and technical terms that frequently have no direct correlates in my first language. Mind, pleasure, virtue – I struggle to translate all of these terms into inconspicuous Norwegian. And so I would have developed the argument differently, with a different audience in mind, had I started out in another language. I think this is a common experience for ESL philosophers.

F. Contesi said...

Thanks, Eric. Interesting post and striking results. If I may be excused for the plug, issues such as those raised in the post and comments are the topic of a planned special issue of Philosophical Papers that, with Moti Mizrahi and Enrico Terrone, I am guest editing (and to which Eric will contribute his number analyses). We are accepting submissions! Please visit:
http://contesi.wordpress.com/cfp

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Yes! This is a draft analysis for my contribution to that volume.

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Thanks for that comment, Karen!

Yes, I wasn't attempting to use institution of affiliation as proxy for mother tongue. Of course, determining mother tongue is much more labor intensive (and less practical for a large sample), but Alex Guerrero has done some of the work for ethics journals here:
http://static1.1.sqspcdn.com/static/f/1011404/26270949/1432918698840/FinalJournalDiversity.pdf?token=rvNjJWjrtWLl%2FNyE7MjLbIgC5DE%3D

I do think that country of one's home institution is relevant to the situation and worth looking at in its own right.

I'm ambivalent about automatic translation. If it happens, it will enable more equal access to academic knowledge and resources! But the nuance that will inevitably be lost is important in philosophy. I suspect it will work much better for the natural sciences.

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Eskil -- thanks for that comment. Darn Blogger ate my lengthy reply, darn it! (Happens to me too.)

Short version: I think Leiter's polls do approximately accurately reflect what Carolyn Dicey Jennings and I call prominence in "mainstream Anglophone philosophy" -- other measures are PGR rating and citation in the SEP, less close but still related citation in ISI or Google Scholar, NRC or REF, discussion in abstracts in Philosopher's Index. I think it is sociologically the case that people central to mainstream Anglophone philosophy as I've described it have more academic power in the US, UK, and other Anglophone countries.

I could see a case to be made for distributing power away from those centers -- and in a way this post itself is pushing for that, at the level of country of institutional affiliation.

I'm also hoping some collaborators might do some analyses of non-Anglophone journals to see how their data compare.

howard berman said...

Nicholas Ostler a polyglot linguist who runs an organization devoted to saving endangered languages wrote one book on the trajectory of lingua francas and another on the specific case of English as a lingua franca- just to whet your appetite- really scholarly works