- In a recent study, we find that two international relations (IR) journals favor articles written by authors who share the journal’s institutional affiliation. We term this phenomenon “academic in-group bias.”
- In academia, citations are considered a marker of quality — the more citations a paper receives, the higher quality it is assumed to be. If papers written by researchers from Blue University and published in the Blue Journal get fewer citations than papers written by researchers from Red University and published by the Blue Journal, this could signal that the Blue Journal was willing to lower its standards for its own researchers; this could then indicate in-group bias.
- Our results confirm the existence of academic in-group bias. When published in Harvard- or MIT-related journals, articles published by graduates of Harvard and MIT receive roughly 60% fewer citations than papers written by out-group scholars. This difference is statistically significant and very large in magnitude. It’s also in contrast to what we see when we look at the control group journals. In these journals, Princeton authors get roughly the same citations as the out-group authors, while Harvard and MIT get more citations.
- What harm can academic in-group bias create? First, it can tilt tenure decisions and other promotions based on an academic’s publications. Some competent scholars might lose while others who are less competent might benefit. This adverse effect can be minimized if the field incorporates this bias into its decision-making process, putting less weight on publications of in-group members in the home journals and assigning more weight to publications of out-group members.
Favoritism versus Search for Good Papers: Empirical Evidence Regarding the Behavior of Journal Editors