Monday, October 20, 2014

More Data On The Underrepresentation of EFL Philosophers

As part of a series of posts about philosophers who are not native speakers of English (or EFL (English as Foreign Language) Philosophers) (click on the label "EFL philosophers" under this post to read the other posts in the series and please read the disclaimer), in a previous post, I have presented some data that seem to support the view that works by EFL philosophers are dramatically under-cited in analytic philosophy and some reflections on why this might have a negative effect on the discipline.

In an interesting post by at Aesthetics for Birds ("Diversity and Inclusiveness in Aesthetics Publishing"), Sherri Irvin provides us with some data (see table) suggesting that EFL philosophers might be also significantly under-published. The data is admittedly very limited as it consists of the acceptance rates at a top aesthetic journal (The Journal for Aesthetics and Art Criticism) and only over three years but the numbers are staggering---even in the most favourable year for philosophers not based in an English speaking country, submissions from philosophers based in the US were 3.5 times more likely to be accepted than submissions from philosophers based in non-English speaking countries and submissions from philosophers based in other English speaking countries were 2.3 times more likely to be accepted than submissions from philosophers based in non-English speaking countries. Of course, the measured variable in this case is not perfectly correlated with the quantity of interest (there are EFL philosophers who work in English speaking countries), but I assume the correlation is strong enough to make the data significant. While I think that the JAAC should be applauded for collecting and publishing these data (if only more philosophy journals followed suit!), I think this is a very worrisome phenomenon that again suggests analytic philosophy might be more insular and less universal than its self-image suggests.

(Of course, one could argue that JAAC is not a truly international journal, as it is published by the American Society for Aesthetics and doesn't have a duty to be representative of the composition of the international aesthetics community. However, this would be to miss the point, which is that it's not clear why the acceptance rate of a journal that practices double-anoynmous reviewing should be affected by the country the author(s) currently reside(s))

* Note that I have decided to start using the label 'EFL philosophers' for philosophers who are not native English speakers and 'NES philosophers' for those who are native English speakers.


  1. I think affiliation is the wrong proxy. The dialectica statistics does not show a higher acceptance rate for US vs European affiliations, cf here: and here:; Philipp Blum

  2. Hi Philipp,

    Thanks for your comment and for linking to the stats. However, I don't think that those stats show that affiliation is the wrong proxy. Rather I take them to show that it is possible to run a high quality analytic philosophy journal that has similar acceptance rates for native and non-native English speakers. I think dialectica is an exception in that respect (and that y'all have done a great job in "de-provincializing" analytic philosophy). I assume that the similar acceptance rates are partly due to the fact that dialectica relies on a more balanced mix of EFL and NES editors and referees unlike many other analytic philosophy journals.

  3. Thanks - I take this as a compliment. I also think other journals, esp. those (few!) edited on the European Continent or having a reasonably "mixed" board, should (i) tell referees to judge by content, not too much by language (this can normally be fixed by proof-reading at a later stage); (ii) assist authors to polish their English (many presses offer services for this) and, most importantly, (iii) collect the relevant data (based on [what else?] guessing by name and affiliation). Let me say again that I think your campaign is an important one, and that I feel sorry about (but understand) your frustration. I understand that in the current climate many philosophers think that it is personally good for them if they belong to one disadvantaged group or other, but find it problematic that people not belonging to group X rather easily make statements about whether or not belonging to group X represents a disadvantage in the current state of our profession.

    1. Very true, Philipp (if I may)! In fact, I think *all* English-speaking journals of philosophy ought to follow recommendation (i).

      To implement (i), as well as (iii), I think it would be helpful to ask submitting authors for their native-speaker status at the moment of submission. Something like this is in fact already done in UK universities for student marking in the case of conditions such as dyslexia.

    2. Thanks to you for (contributing to) running an excellent journal! I'm planning to write a post with some suggestions about how to change our refereeing practices. Some of my suggestions are pretty much the ones you're making here! I also have a number of other suggestions. I'm very interested to hear your impressions!

    3. I'm not sure "collecting data" is the right thing (I'm sorry I used this expression) - what I meant is that journal editors should make public their guesses about proportions, not more than that. I don't think that journals should collect data in any more serious way - after all, why shouldn't it possible to publish under a pseudonym / pen-name? Currently, at dialectica, pseudonyms are only accepted if I know who the author is, but I'm wondering whether this is really necessary... (ii) was meant as an optional service. Also, I didn't intend to advocate affirmative action for non-native speakers: I think it's enough if there is some solidarity among them (at least in Continental Europe, some of them are in positions of power), and I also think it would be nice if we were all still talking Latin (though this might put Italians at some advantage ;-))...

    4. I think it would be great if journals required authors to submit a form similar to the equal opportunity forms one needs to fill for many job applications, so that they could check more systematically for potential biases in their decisions.