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Do Academic Journals Favor Researchers from Their Own Institutions?

Harvard Business Review: “Are academic journals impartial? While many would suggest that academic journals work for the advancement of knowledge and science, we show this is not always the case. 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-group bias is a well-known phenomenon that is widely documented in the psychological literature. People tend to favor their group, whether it is their close family, their hometown, their ethnic group, or any other group affiliation. Before our study, the evidence regarding academic in-group bias was scarce, with only one study finding academic in-group bias in law journals. Studies from economics found mixed results. Our paper provides evidence of academic in-group bias in IR journals, showing that this phenomenon is not specific to law. We also provide tentative evidence which could potentially resolve the conflict in economics, suggesting that these journals might also exhibit in-group bias. In short, we show that academic in-group bias is general in nature, even if not necessarily large in scope. To test the possibility of academic in-group bias, we examined four of the leading academic journals in international relations: World Politics, International Security, International Organization, and International Studies Quarterly. World Politics is published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Affairs at Princeton University. International Security is published by MIT Press and edited by the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University. The other two journals are not affiliated with a specific university and are considered our control group…”

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