Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Academic research is still US-centric

It used to be said that there is not much research in the top journals (which are mostly American) coming out of Asia, including India, because those journals still focus on issues related to the US. Well, that remains the case today, the Economist reports:

....a sample of 76,000 papers published between 1985 and 2005 shows that econo-nerds are infatuated with the “land of the free”.

There were more papers focused on the United States than on Europe, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa combined (see chart). And for the world’s top-five economics journals—where publication of a paper can push a young researcher towards a full professorship—the imbalance is yet more marked. Even accounting for the fact that lots of economic research (and often the best) comes from American universities, the bias persists.

The world’s poorest countries are effectively ignored by the profession. From 1985 to 2005 Burundi was the subject of just four papers. The American Economic Review, the holy grail for many academics, published one paper on India, by some measures the world’s third-largest economy, every two years.

Indian academics are asked to increase research quality as judged by publications in the top journals. This may not be much of a problem in the pure sciences and engineering where problems may not be location-specific. In the social sciences, including management, however, it does pose problems.

It is not just that the problem has to be US-related. There are tremendous advantages to being located in the US, advantages related to networking as well as to having the benefit of feedback on working papers in the US seminar circuit. Researchers based elsewhere are undoubtedly disadvantaged.

How do we reconcile the need for quality research with the disadvantages faced by researchers outside the US? One way would be for Asian schools to produce their own journals. These journals would take a long time, however, in catching up with international rankings. Besides, individual schools setting up their own journals does not work; we need a set of institutions to pool their resources to bring out a journal, say, the IIMs indeed getting together for such an initiative. (The HRD ministry has been pushing the IIMs to bring out such a management journal but without luck).

These journals must have the benefit of access to top quality refereeing so that it is accepted- at least within the Asian region- that a paper published in such journals passes the test of quality. It's a tall order. Unless the effort is made, however, in nurturing top journals outside the US, it will be hard to reconcile the need for quality output with the issue of getting US journals interested in non-US issues.


Shobhit said...

I agree with your point that researches published in US focused journals should not be the only criteria.

Is there a reason why IIMs are not able to come together and publish Asia focused journal?

T T Ram Mohan said...

Shobit, I guess there has not been a tradition of collaborative effort amongst IIMs and the top ones see themselves as competing against each other. They have preferred torun a journal on their own rather than come together to produce one journal.


Anonymous said...

why do you compare the unreachable...US is high above the sky and India is shit hole...