One of my faculty, during a lecture, told the following lines

some good journals and conferences even consider the country of authors and sometimes they think that the research papers from a particular country may be not good. So, we need to be more careful while writing the paper and regarding its novelty.

Is his claim true? Does the reviewers and editors of the journal consider the country as one of the factors in the decision?

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    Alice: Why does our journal doesn't accept papers from China? Bob: Our journal is open to everyone, we are one world. Alice: But according to the latest stats around 90% of the papers in our journal came from U.S. Bob: That is not our fault, it has to do with the submission rate. Chuck: Things has changed dramatically in the last 10 years. Bob: Thats right, India and China are producing the same amount of papers like the US. Chuck: but not in English, they are preferring their local language. Alice: You mean, our journals rejects paper written not in English? Bob: That's perhaps the reason. – Manuel Rodriguez Nov 15 at 12:47
  • I think the primary source of non-topic-related bias comes from seeing the authors' names. – Kimball Nov 15 at 13:47
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    @Kimball: That would be strange, since many researchers at US universities aren't US born, or have what would be thought of as "American" names. – jamesqf Nov 15 at 17:31
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    @jamesqf I meant their specific names, as in who they are, i.e., there is much more bias coming from researchers' reputation and it would be hard to try to isolate bias regarding the country they work in. – Kimball Nov 15 at 22:28
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    You shouldn't think about it that isolated, nor should you quote so much out of context. When the reviewer gets the impression that you could have been more careful while writing your paper, you are on track to being rejected and the country you live in or come from has absolutely nothing to do with it. – user1129682 Nov 16 at 13:17

I am not sure that I ever seen any substantiation statistical research on it, but it is definitely believed that researchers from some countries are under pressure to generate large quantities of research papers, but not necessarily under the same pressure regarding the quality of their research. The lists are subjective and vary from one researcher to another, but often include China, India, Russia and post-Soviet countries, etc. So, yes, peer-reviewers may have a subconscious bias against research papers from these countries. This bias may be further amplified by the language barrier — if the paper is written in sub-par English, it may reflect on the perception of research explained in the paper.

However, reviewers should not allow their bias to affect their decision and there are systems in place to ensure they don't. Good journals have good policies which encourage reviewers to work with their bias and also involve a diverse panel of reviewers to consider the merits of the paper more objectively.

Regarding your last statement, yes, it is always good to carefully check your paper before submission and stress the novelty and usefulness of the proposed research idea.

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    I'm surprised you don't mention blinded review, which is very common and should eliminate even the possibility of this bias from the reviewers' perspective. It's better to remove sources of bias than to try to "work with their bias". Under blinded review, the author's country cannot affect the reviewers' opinions, because they simply don't know it. – Nuclear Wang Nov 15 at 15:07
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    @NuclearWang true, except for the language barrier which was mentioned and potential hints to the culture of the authors based on examples and real world arguments in introductions, for instance. E.g. choosing local celebrities for examples, citing mostly papers from a certain country etc. Those are not absolute identifiers, but can be (subconscious) indicators. – Darkwing Nov 15 at 16:35
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    "if the paper is written in sub-par English, it may reflect on the perception of research explained in the paper." Of course, it may also affect the ability for the research in the paper to be understood. I've read some papers that contain entire paragraphs where I literally couldn't even tell what they were trying to say. And those were papers that made it through peer review. – reirab Nov 15 at 16:38
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    Nor, alas, is sub-par English limited to those for whom it's not their native tongue. Though it's often sub-par in different ways. – jamesqf Nov 15 at 17:34
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    @NuclearWang Double-blind peer-review exists in a variety of disciplines, but not in all of them. Mathematics, for example, is almost exclusively one-way-blind: reviewers know the authors, but not vice versa. – Dmitry Savostyanov Nov 15 at 18:15

You won't find any editor willing to say that they are influenced by the authors' country. It's both something that's politically incorrect and something that people don't want to think is true for them. But that's not to say subconscious bias doesn't exist. Similar to gender bias, nobody is willing to say they're biased, but somehow, at some level, they exhibit biased behavior.

I'd say that there is some level of bias in respect to an author's country, but it's small and no "good journals and conferences" will ever state that they consider the author's country in a negative way (they might, however, consider the authors' country in a positive way, viz. "authors from developing countries are especially encouraged to submit").

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    Similar to gender bias, nobody is willing to say they're biased I'd go further and say that most people strongly believe that they aren't. But when it comes to bias their intentions are largely irrelevant. – Cape Code Nov 15 at 14:02

When reviewing a paper, you subconsciously have an expectation of how good it is. If you know previous work by the authors and liked that work, you expect to find good work in the paper under review (and you are much more disappointed if this expectation is not fulfilled). This can affect the way the paper is read and hence the review as well. Similarly, the institution names of the authors induce some expectation of quality if the institution is known to the reviewer. Double-blind review is supposed to minimize this effect, but there are always some hints left in the paper.

Now a western reviewer may be less likely to know for the majority of Asian institutions how well-reputed they are. This means that the authors do not get a subconscious bonus here. This is normally not a big deal if the paper is good enough, but for journals with low acceptance rates, this can be problematic for papers that are close to the borderline of acceptance.

Likewise, language may be a big deal here. For instance, experienced US-American reviewers may have seen all the usual writing errors that French, Italian, and German native speakers typically make, and because of this these do not obstruct their understanding of the paper content. But for the typical errors made by Asians, this may be different, and a reviewer who is not certain about the meaning of some statements in the paper is just less likely to write a very supportive review. Local customs in structuring the paper and building up a compelling argument may also lead to a similar effect.

  • As an Asian, I agree. – scaaahu Nov 16 at 8:21
  • "For instance, experienced US-American reviewers may have seen all the usual writing errors that French, Italian, and German native speakers typically make...But for the typical errors made by Asians, this may be different". As a US researcher, my experience was the opposite (I believe I am more familiar with typical Asian grammatical mistakes). This is probably because the university I attended was 60% Asian and the majority of my fellow grad students were born in Asian countries. – Cliff AB Nov 17 at 0:29

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