Research production in psychology has long been shown to be dominated by North American and Western European scholars – a state of affairs detrimental to the field as a whole (e.g., Moghaddam, 1987; Rad et al., 2018). Generally, there is a division of labor such that theories and methods are primarily produced in the Global North and then consumed and reproduced by the majority of the world (e.g., Hsiung, 2012; also called scientistic mimicry, see Martín-Baró, 1994). Despite some narrow progress over the decades (Hendricks & Moghaddam, 2020), this state of affairs has not changed fundamentally (e.g., Thalmayer et al., 2021). Indeed, in social psychology the dominance of Northern nations’ research production and representation is increasing in some regions (e.g., Europe; Nyúl et al., 2021).
Many explanations for this asymmetry have rightly focused on the historical and economic structural differences and neocolonial scientific imperialism observed across most disciplines (e.g., Alatas, 2000; Altbach, 2007; Mosbah-Natanson & Gingras, 2014). But the contemporary globalized context of increasing Westernization, neoliberalization, and authoritarianism is also highly detrimental to equity in the field (e.g., Bou Zeineddine et al., 2022). Contemporary systems have been hierarchy-reinforcing and homogenizing across the social sciences, amplifying historical inequities for disadvantaged researchers and those with perspectives diverging from those of the Northern mainstream. These include the systems of: a) political governance (e.g., Hanafi, 2016; Pető, 2021), b) political economy of academia (e.g., Bergland, 2018; Gupta et al., 2016), c) knowledge production and consumption (e.g., Bou Zeineddine et al., 2022; Canagarajah, 1996; Readsura Decolonial Editorial Collective, 2021), and d) collaboration, recognition, and citation (e.g., Gazni et al., 2012; Lambert et al., 2019; Mhlongo, 2017; Nyúl et al., 2021). Some of these systems damage academia as an industry globally; others specifically enhance within- and between-nation hierarchies in academia.
For instance, under-investment in and privatization of higher education leads to the commodification and precaritization of academic labor, which in turn transforms the conditions of knowledge production and eliminates the public good characteristics of education and research (e.g., Holmwood & Marcuello Servós, 2019; Lincoln, 2012). These trends lead to lower research productivity and creativity and increase inequalities in such productivity – particularly for disadvantaged researchers such as women, early career, non-Northern, or displaced academics (e.g., Lee & Kofman, 2012; Leišytė, 2016; Vatansever, 2020).
Academic institutions in the Global South can amplify the linguistic and epistemological hegemony and inequities of Northern systems by enforcing structural scientistic mimicry (Martín-Baró, 1994) and intellectual imperialism – e.g., mandating the use of English, seeking Northern institutional accreditation, establishing satellite branches for Northern institutions, or structuring research incentives around Northern outlets and benchmarks (e.g., Hanafi & Arvanitis, 2014; Lee & Lee, 2013). They also privilege Northern over indigenous curricula, research topics, and methods (see also, Bou Zeineddine et al., 2022); in psychology, focusing one’s work indigenously reduces international status (e.g., Gutiérrez & Landeira-Fernández, 2018; Oppong, 2019).
Political instability, authoritarianism, and normative and legal intellectual repression also contribute significantly to the difficulties in conducting research outside Global North countries (e.g., Hanafi, 2016). This problem is most severe in hotspots of conflict and instability (e.g., Hawi et al., 2022; Moss et al., 2019), but is also increasing globally as a result of expanding neoliberalization and the breakdown of liberal-democratic political norms (e.g., Bruff & Tansel, 2019; Giroux, 2015; Pető, 2021).
Furthermore, many of these systems operate on nepotistic and oligarchic grounds. They privilege established and historically advantaged countries, groups, institutions, and scholars (IJzerman et al., 2021; Kristensen, 2015). For example, researchers have reported nepotism and status-based biases in editorship and peer review (e.g., Bou Zeineddine et al., 2022), student admissions to privileged institutions (e.g., Arcidiacono et al., 2022), and faculty hiring (e.g., Clauset et al., 2015).
Additionally, social psychology is underperforming in its public service impacts and lacks public appreciation and translational policy research and applications, which undermines the field (e.g., Dafermos, 2015; Gropp, 2021). Many (especially Southern) researchers have long appealed for the discipline to be more connected to urgent public issues and to enhance policy pipelines and sociopolitical relevance (e.g., Liu et al., 2008; Sinha, 1989; Walsh & Gokani, 2014).
This overview suggests two things – first, social psychology is likely not immune to fundamental systemic failures ongoing in academia and societies as a whole. Second, mainstream Northern social psychologists working in the North are more likely to be relatively buffered from these effects compared to others. Thus, scholars in the North may suffer from but be more resilient to global systemic obstacles than their disadvantaged counterparts (e.g., IJzerman et al., 2021).
We have already observed such a pattern for international publication (Bou Zeineddine et al., 2022). Social psychologists globally perceived pervasive systematic biases and inequities conforming to contemporary disciplinary standards. But non-Northerners reported greater difficulties publishing in international outlets than those in the Global North. This indicated a coerced compliance with this structurally disadvantageous situation, and that the status quo emerges from normative, institutional, and professional dynamics, which reproduce hierarchies for social psychologists across and within nations (i.e., a complex of intersectional devaluations). In the present study, we focus on research production (rather than publication), and examine if this inequitable pattern in international social psychological research dissemination (publication) may also be the case for research production.
In this study, we examined the perceived magnitude of these differences in research productivity across three broad regions (Global South – GS, South and East Europe – SEE, GN – Global North) and explored potential obstacles to research production from social psychologists’ own points of view. Our sample, recruitment, and analytical procedures remain the same as those previously reported (Bou Zeineddine et al., 2022), but we rely on different measures.
Our sample consisted of 232 self-identified social psychologists working in 64 countries, representing three global regions (see Supplemental D, Table 1): GS: 26 countries, n = 61, SEE: every European country outside Western and Northern Europe, 20 countries, n = 99, and GN: every developed country in the sample outside South and East Europe, 18 countries, n = 72. For the demographic breakdown of the sample, see Supplemental D, Table 2).
We recruited self-identified social psychologists as participants for an online (Qualtrics) English-language survey “about the situation of social psychological research in your country and internationally.” The logic of using an English-only survey was that we were interested in examining problems in research production specifically for mainstream social psychological literature, which is Anglophone dominated (e.g., Gingras & Mosbah-Natanson, 2010). We recruited self-identified social psychologists because - particularly outside the GN - many social psychologists work in a variety of departments or without formal links to an academic institution (e.g., in NGO’s; Saab et al., 2020).
We recruited participants through psychological associations’ listservs and snowball sampling initiated through social psychologists with extensive regional contacts (for additional detail on recruitment procedure, see Bou Zeineddine et al., 2022). We focused our recruitment on SEE and the GS, and invested relatively little effort in recruiting participants from the U.S., given its over-representation in the discipline and the well-known discrepancies between scholars in that nation and others (e.g., Thalmayer et al., 2021). Data collection occurred from July 2019 to February 2020.
We report all measures relating to the conduct and production of research in our survey. First, we report on beliefs regarding productivity in the countries participants were working in and regionally invariant difficulties reported by participants. Then we report on a variety of regionally variant factors in conducting research. For accessibility, we categorize these results along themes identifying broad dimensions of affordance along three dimensions: material capital, human capital and organization, and social and political capital, as described below for each measure.
Beliefs About Productivity
Participants answered the question: “How productive are the top social psychological researchers in your country compared to the top researchers working in the highest research producer countries?” using a five-point scale from 1-much less productive to 5-equally productive.
Beliefs About Difficulties Conducting Research
We asked participants “What do you think are the difficulties in conducting social psychological research in your country?” Participants could select multiple options. The 12 response options were formulated based on the literature and consultations between the authors and with colleagues in various countries. These were: 1- limited availability of qualified social psychologists, 2- difficulties in obtaining funding, 3- restrictive grant policies, 4- restrictions in freedom to conduct social psychological research, 5- limited access to local/regional outlets, 6- limited access to international publication outlets, 7- lack of incentives for social psychological research, 8- lack of respect/awareness/appreciation for social psychology as a discipline, 9- lack of job opportunities, 10- teaching load and/or service load are too heavy, 11- lack of colleagues, postdocs, PhD students, RAs and other assisting research personnel, 12- lack of other resources, 13- other (with open-ended field). To draw out the patterns in participant responses in an accessible manner, we categorize our reporting of the frequency of selection of these response options in the results section below by first describing those that were regionally invariant (see Table 1), then splitting the regionally variant response options along the three themes described above: a) material capital (Options 5, 6, 12), b) human capital and organization (Options 1, 7, 11), and c) social and political capital (Option 8).
Presence of National Psychological Association
Relevant to the human capital and organization theme, a yes/no question asked participants: “Is there a national psychological association in your country?”
In addition to participant beliefs about difficulties conducting research in their countries due to lack of material capital, we asked a series of more specific questions regarding the funding of research. These included:
Proportion of Funded Research
We asked participants “What proportion of the research that social psychologists in your country conduct is funded? (Please estimate the percentage using the slider below)” using a sliding scale from 0% to 100%.
Sources of Funding
We asked participants “How is the research of social psychologists in your country financed?” Multiple responses could be selected. Response options were 1- Institutions where the research is conducted, 2- National research funds, 3- Governmental and state institutions, 4- local for-profit companies, 5- local non-profit organizations, 6- international for-profit companies, 7- international non-profit organizations, 8- Governmental/Intergovernmental agencies (e.g., ERC, H2020, etc.), 9- there is no funding available, 10- no funding is needed, 11- I don’t know, and 12- Other (with an open-ended field).
Obstacles to Obtaining National Funding
We asked participants “What are the main obstacles to getting financed nationally in your country? (Multiple answers can be selected).” Response options were: 1- Lack of national funding/grant schemes, 2- Restricted finances within those schemes, 3- Lack of funding from the institutions where research is conducted (universities, research institutions), 4- The awarding of the grants is not based on merit, 5- Other (with an open-ended field).
Merit in National Grant Award Decisions
We asked participants to rate on a scale from 1- not at all to 5- very much, “To what extent are available grants in your country awarded based on merit (i.e. the highest quality applications have the highest chance of receiving the grants)?”
Transparency in National Grant Award Decisions
We asked participants to rate on a scale from 1- not at all to 5- very much, “To what extent are the selection criteria clear to applicants for research funds in your country?”
Beliefs About Criteria for National Funding
A single open-ended question asked participants “What other criteria are taken into account in awarding grants in your country?”
Obstacles to Obtaining International Funding
We asked participants “What are the main obstacles to getting financed by the biggest research funds in your country (e.g., ERC, H2020, NSF, NIH, UNDP, WHO, Save the Children)?” Multiple responses were allowed. Response items included: 1- lack of infrastructure/support from the local institutions of the researcher(s), 2- lack of contacts with research partners based in other countries, 3- international funding is not available in my country, 4- lack of qualified researchers in my country, 5- Other (with an open-ended field).
Choice in Research Topic Selection
In addition to participant beliefs about difficulties conducting research in their countries due to social and political capital issues in our general item, we asked a series of more specific questions regarding perceptions of freedom of choice in selecting research topics and beliefs regarding a variety of influences on research topic selection for researchers in participant countries:
Freedom of Choice of Topic
We asked participants to rate on a scale from 1- not at all to 5- very much, “To what extent do you think that your country provides enough freedom to conduct social psychological research on any topic of one’s choice?”
Influences on Choice of Topic
We asked participants to rate on a scale from 1- not at all to 5- very much, “To what extent do the following factors influence which research topic social psychologists choose in your country?” for each of eight agents: 1- international funding agencies, 2- national funding agencies, 3- management of your institution, 4- your research group, 5- political/legal authorities, and 6- religious authorities, 7- public opinion, 8- other (with an open-ended field).
The study's main purpose was to examine variation in beliefs about research production in the discipline as a function of region. As in Bou Zeineddine et al. (2022), we used chi-square tests to determine whether the percentage of participants who selected each response option varied across region when the variable was nominal (i.e., questions with the possibility of selecting more than one choice), with post-hoc z-tests on adjusted standardized Pearson residuals to compare cells for multinomial questions (see also, Agresti, 2002, p. 81). We also conducted logistic regressions controlling for participant gender, to account for sampling bias, and age, as a proxy for participant rank and experience, and tested interactions between region of PhD training and region of the participant (see Supplemental A). We conducted ANOVAs and post hoc tests (Tamhane’s T2 when homogeneity of variances was violated) when the outcome variable was interval or continuous (Likert-type scale or percentages). We used listwise deletion in all analyses to deal with missing data, patterns of which were not regionally variant.
Open-ended text responses for questions that had an “other” option and the open-ended question on criteria for national funding awards were analyzed using thematic content analysis (e.g., Anderson, 2007). Given the small amount of text, we did not employ quantification of the responses. Excerpts are used to illustrate emerging themes and patterns.
Beliefs About Productivity in Participant Countries
On average, participants reported top researchers in their country being somewhat less productive than top researchers in the highest research producing countries (e.g. US, UK, NLD) (M = 2.95, SD = 1.33). No reliable difference emerged between GS and SEE participant perceptions. Participants in the GS and SEE saw their countries’ top researchers as less productive, in contrast to participants in the GN (see Figure 1). Thus, even accounting for variability in research productivity within countries, we found participants aware of differences between the GN and the other regions.
However, several colleagues noted that inequality within their countries was also stark. A colleague in Poland (P1) noted:
“the top social psychologists in my country are doing well. The problem is with the rest”.
Several colleagues in Chile made the same observation. One of them (C2), noted an association between modern-colonial disciplinary biases and the status of the researchers within and beyond the country, saying:
“the Chilean government invests deeply in international research programs for their students which leads to a high quantity of researchers with international ties. Nevertheless, this created a bias: social psychologists that are highly ranked follow American and European theories, prefer quantitative studies and discriminate against those who don't follow those international standards. On the bright side, they are highly competitive on international standards.”
Across these statements, we see differences in productivity within-region and within-country, and blame and criticism directed towards national institutions. However, in the second extract (and others, see Supplemental B), such blame was still linked to adopting and adhering to modern-colonial practices in research production in social psychology. C2 paints a picture of intellectual imperialism enforced by a Southern government, in which the only viable model for high research production is to follow Northern standards. It is possible that this was an artifact of how our question was understood and the comparison point we made: we may have primed people to think of research production according to Northern standards (and therefore potentially implicitly referring to publication in international journals). However, our results align with what past research has noted about psychology in general in the Global South (e.g., Beigel et al., 2018).
Pervasive Beliefs About Difficulties in Conducting Research
We explore the asymmetry in productivity beliefs further by examining participants’ beliefs about the difficulties faced in their countries in conducting social psychology research. The three most frequently reported problems were lack of funding, a heavy workload (teaching and/or service), and lack of job opportunities (see Table 1). Participants did not differ across regions in reporting these difficulties, and they were pointed out by (near) majorities in all regions. Nearly a third of participants, equally across regions, also listed restrictive institutional grant policies (e.g. high overheads) as a difficulty in conducting research (for full results, see Supplemental C, Table 1).
|Obstacle||% of sample reporting obstacle|
|Difficulties in obtaining funding||79.3|
|Teaching load and/or service load are too heavy||59.5|
|Lack of job opportunities for social psychological researchers||47.1|
|Restrictive grant policies in institutions (e.g. overhead demands are too high)||33.0|
|Restrictions in freedom to conduct social psychological research||14.5|
In their qualitative comments on obstacles to research production, colleagues in all regions linked administrative and teaching burdens to lack of career incentives for research, job insecurity, precarity, and more severe impacts on more devalued groups (e.g., students, early career scholars, women). For example, in Albania, a colleague (A1) noted:
“there are many young researchers in Albania who have interesting research ideas and a high motivation to conduct innovative research and publish internationally. But there is in general a very low incentive to do so because the academic institutions in Albania are primarily focused on teaching and the teaching load for academics is usually very high.”
For a colleague in South Africa (SA1),
“Academic and research work is increasingly unavailable, insecure and very poorly paid.”
A colleague in Germany (G1) also stated:
“the job insecurity (especially at the postdoc level) is a huge burden for social psychologists in Germany. It is required to write another thesis (habilitation) and professorship opportunities are very limited (50 social psychology professorships available at universities in Germany, awarded for lifetime). Thus, people have to quit research or move to another country to continue. This coincides with having children, putting even more pressure on women to manage their family and career at the same time.”
According to several participants, in addition to generally overburdening their employees, institutions fell short in supporting them and there were often obstacles in the way of obtaining grants and conducting research. According to P1, for example, there was:
“too much paperwork related to administrative issues (grant paperwork) [and] the universities provide little assistance with this, despite that most of them take 40% overheads of the grants.”
Note that all four of these universally-reported obstacles to research have to do with the political economy of research production and its impacts on the labor market, labor conditions, and academic institutional policies. The high frequencies in which GN colleagues reported these difficulties and their qualitative remarks also speak to the extent of within-nation inequalities and higher competition in those countries. And while social psychologists across all regions reported these problems, several also noted that these problems affected privileged groups less than others (see Supplemental B).
Regional Specificities in Beliefs About Difficulties in Conducting Research
Human Capital and Organization
A particular problem for researchers outside the GN was lack of personnel, and inadequate or obstructive organization (e.g., university policies, psychological associations, labor market, labor law). Lack of support from assisting research personnel was more common in the GS than in the GN, with SEE intermediate between them, χ2(2) = 10.82, p = .005, Cramer’s V = .22. Likewise, limited availability of qualified social psychologists was more commonly reported in the GS and SEE than in the GN, χ2(2) = 34.84, p < .001, Cramer’s V = .39. Indeed, in qualitative remarks, inadequacies in human capital and organization emerged as the primary difficulty for researchers in SEE. The most frequently reported problems were limited skills, qualifications, and training – but specifically those skills valued by the biases of the international mainstream (e.g., English language, statistical proficiencies).
|Theme / Obstacle||% of GS respondents||% of SEE respondents||% of GN respondents|
|Human capital and organization|
|Lack of colleagues, postdocs, PhD students, RAs and other assisting research personnel||54.2a||36.7a,b||26.1b|
|Limited availability of qualified social psychologists||59.3a||27.6b||11.6c|
|Lack of incentives for social psychological research (promotion and career progress do not depend on research production)||39.0a||34.7a||13.0b|
|Lack of other resources (participant pools, lab spaces, adequate software, etc.)||47.5a,b||58.2a||29.0b|
|Limited access to international publication outlets||28.8a||37.8a||7.2b|
|Limited availability or limited access to local/regional publication outlets||25.4a||11.2a||0.0b|
|Social and political capital|
|Lack of respect/awareness/appreciation for social psychology as a discipline||55.9a||31.6b||21.7b|
Note. GS = Global South; SEE = South & Eastern Europe; GN = Global North. Subscripts indicate homogeneous subsets based on pairwise post-hoc analyses (Bonferroni-adjusted p’s < .05).
Human capital and organization issues were also present, but in different forms and to a lesser extent in the GN. In their qualitative remarks, Northerners were primarily concerned about increasing competitiveness as an obstacle to conducting research. They highlighted changes in disciplinary norms and labor markets such as difficulties securing academic jobs, and requirements for ever-greater amounts of funding to comply with shifting norms favoring large samples in multiple high-powered empirical studies (while in a position of relative scarcity of funding; see also, Supplemental B). This indicates a human capital and organization issue at the level of the labor market, research funding systems, and the discipline rather than at the level of institutions, departments, or research labs.
Beyond the availability of human capital, whether and how this capital was organized and incentivized by institutions was also a major problem. A sizable minority of participants felt that the lack of incentives for social psychological research (promotion and career progress do not depend on research production) was a major obstacle for conducting research. This difficulty was more commonly listed in the GS and SEE than in the GN, χ2(2) = 12.87, p = .002, Cramer’s V = .24. One example of how this asymmetry may play out is how incentive structures can discourage collaboration and international research. For example, according to a Saudi colleague (KSA1),
“the [wa]y to publish internationally is by collaborating with international researchers, but our local academic promotion system discourages collaborating (minimum points or disregard co-authored papers).”
Academic institutions can play a role in further individualizing and fragmenting the discipline and bolstering competitive rather than cooperative norms in research, especially when they go so far as to disregard co-authored papers in structuring incentives. This statement also shows how difficult access to international publications is if one does research locally outside the GN without GN collaborators (see also, Bou Zeineddine et al., 2022).
Beyond participants’ beliefs about human capital and organization, we also observed asymmetries in formal organization across regions. Many of our participants (40.2%) stated there was no formal network or association of psychologists in their country. This was much more often the case in SEE (59%) and the GS (47.1%) than in the GN (12.9%), χ2(2) = 35.02, p < .001, Cramer’s V = .41. Given the importance of such associations for local standard-setting and enhancing research production, quality, prestige, and influence (e.g., Adair, 1995), this is clearly detrimental for research outside the GN. We expect the differences may have been even starker were we to have asked specifically about social psychological associations (we did not because we could not identify any in various non-GN regions while designing the questions).
Nearly half (45.5%) of all participants reported that a main difficulty in conducting research was lack of resources (e.g., participant pools, lab spaces). However, this difficulty was more likely to be reported in SEE than in the GN, with the GS intermediate between them, χ2(2) = 13.89, p = .001, Cramer’s V = .25.
Resources as basic as having access to publication outlets for research or educational use, or availability of outlets to publish in, also varied by region. Participants in the SEE and the GS were more likely to report limited access to international journals than those in the GN, χ2(2) = 19.84, p = .001, Cramer’s V = .30, as well as limited access and availability of local and regional publication outlets, GN, χ2(2) = 20.21, p = .001, Cramer’s V = .30.
Though we have seen that other material resources are also unequal, our sample shows inequalities in funding as well. Those in the GS (40.9%; p = .03) and SEE (42.7%; p = .04) reported a lower proportion of funded research in their countries than those in the GN (53.4%), F(2,202) = 3.99, p = .02. The sources that researchers obtain their funding from also varied by region (see Supplemental C – Table 4). Participants across regions reported that researchers in their countries relied mostly on national research funds, universities, governmental and state institutions, and intergovernmental agencies for their research funding. We noted a more diverse range of sources in both GS and SEE compared to GN. When particular sources (e.g., national funding agencies) are absent, under-resourced, highly competitive, or corrupt, this could drive researchers to look more widely for funding sources. We note that the two primary sources of funding in the North (national research funds and institutions) are less commonly used in the other two regions. Interestingly, despite most of our sampled SEE countries being formally within EU, ERC, and Horizon 2020 remits, we noted that intergovernmental agencies were not as frequently reported as available sources of funding as in the GN. This may indicate support for claims that such funding is biased towards Western European recipients (e.g., Gallo et al., 2021).
Most qualitative remarks on funding sources in the GS mentioned foreign or international forms of financial assistance not mentioned in our response list. Interestingly, in SEE, participants more often mentioned self-financing, finding alternative sources or doing research that does not require financing. Participants from the GN did not mention any other forms of financing than the ones listed. In general, participants outside the GN reported poorer funding infrastructure than in the GN.
Besides asymmetries in where people get their research funds, we also observed inequalities in obstacles to obtaining national funding. The most frequently reported obstacles were the lack of funding from institutions (59.9%) and restricted finances within national research funding schemes (54.3%), which were observed equally across regions (see Supplemental C, Table 2). It was quite common overall (49.7%) to report that no national funding was available, despite the prevalent reliance on this source of funding (Supplemental C – Table 4), suggesting that social-psychological research is generally perceived to be under-funded. Participants in the GS, in particular, reported lack of available national funding compared to the GN, χ2(2) = 8.21, p = .017, Cramer’s V = .20.
Although there were few open-ended responses concerning the obstacles to obtaining national funds, some thematic patterns are important to highlight. Answers in the GS were diverse; they mentioned the lack of opportunities in – and devaluation of – social science and a lack of sufficient knowledge and experiences with funding. In SEE, participants mentioned the scarcity of funding, that funding was improperly used or was subject to corruption, the poor qualifications of applicants, unqualified reviewers in national research fund programs, and overly complicated procedures. A Slovak (SL2) colleague noted, for example, that:
“Only part of the funding (including EU funds) was actually spent to support real research projects. Huge amount of money was allocated by Ministry of Education to applicants (different companies) who were far from meeting the criteria to actually be a qualified researcher/research institution.”
However, in the GN, the most prominent obstacles in colleagues’ qualitative remarks related to the hyper-competitiveness of grants and profiteering off of research funding sources.
Participants also pointed out procedural injustices in grant awards as obstacles to obtaining national funding. According to 21.8% of participants, obtaining national funding in their countries was obstructed by grants being awarded not based on merit. This was reported as an obstacle more often in both SEE and the GS than in the GN, χ2(2) = 7.68, p = .021. Indeed, participants in the GS and SEE indicated that grants were less often awarded based on merit than in the GN, F(2, 169) = 5.68, p = .004, and those in the GS and SEE reported that the criteria for awarding grants were less transparent in their countries than in the GN, F(2, 181) = 4.30, p = .02 (see Figure 2).
Respondents in all regions, but particularly outside the GN, were critical of the objectivity of the criteria in grant award decisions in their qualitative responses. In the GS, past record and strength of proposal, but also, personal connections and network, ideology, institutional background, and applicants’ status, race, gender, and nationality were listed. For example, a colleague in India (IN1) listed
“The name of the institution and the psychologist applying (more popular, better known, considered senior in terms of age and work experience likely to get more). Network of the academic applying for the grant.”
In SEE, seniority and past record were most frequently mentioned, but there was again mention of politics, political and personal connections, institutional background, societal relevance of research, and the fact that the criteria are either ad hoc or mimic those of international or Western institutions. For example, SL1 noted that in Slovakia
“unfortunately, being a small country, personal knowledge and friendships or acquaintance with someone influences the results on national level”
Answers from the GN highlighted the importance of the applicant’s profile, previous achievements and publications, and the prestige of their institution, and the timeliness, relevance, and potential impact of the research. These standards were seen as largely transparent and legitimate, even while recognizing the prestige of institutions as a criterion, or the politically motivated decisions of the funding agencies that set the criteria. For example, a Canadian colleague (CA1), noted:
“Much of our funding comes from national governmental funding agencies. These groups will set out what their research priorities are, and those grant applications that choose to research the government's preferred topics will get funding. Those that want to study other topics will be much less likely to get the grant.”
Similar patterns appeared in responses regarding obstacles to obtaining international funds. The only regionally invariant obstacle to obtaining international funds was the lack of contacts with research partners in other countries; more than half the sample reported this difficulty (56.8%). This exemplifies the fragmentation and parochialism of the discipline at the international level. Otherwise, we found that lack of institutional infrastructure and support, lack of qualified researchers, and unavailability of international funding, were all less frequently reported in the GN (see Supplemental C, Table 3).
Almost a fifth (16.8%) of participants indicated other obstacles to obtaining prestigious international funding besides those we mentioned, with participants in SEE less likely to add others. Answers from the GS were diverse, focusing on obstacles such as burdensome bureaucracy, political interference (e.g., need for government permission to collaborate internationally, restrictive laws concerning such collaboration or cross-border financial transactions), lack of time, the scarcity of grants, and biases in the awarding of these grants. As SA1 noted of the situation in South Africa,
“Preference is given to 'Northern' principals [principal investigators] and this means people with both local knowledge and high degrees of expertise must go to Americans [collaborators] etc and [non-Northern collaborators] are not seen as being on 'the same level' because they didn't go to a prestigious American/ English etc university. It also means that the most privileged few in the 'North' are typically the same ones who come here to study the most impoverished and vulnerable populations and are often quite offensive as they lack understanding and are more interested in career progression than research.”
Answers from scholars in SEE mentioned insufficient institutional support, infrastructure, human capital, and lack of networks and contacts to qualify for such international grants.
In the Global North, answers were predominantly about competitiveness. Colleagues complained of too small a pot for too many researchers – although some did not see any obstacles to international funding.
Social and Political Capital
Colleagues reported normative and political considerations as additional obstacles to conducting their research.
Inadequate human capital and organization were not simply logistical concerns. For example, in the qualitative responses of GS participants’ beliefs regarding the difficulties of conducting research in their countries, ideological issues and concerns about the status of social science and social psychology emerged as a main theme alongside financial scarcity and reviewer biases (for discussion of the latter, see redacted for review). Generally, there was a clear relationship for our GS and SEE participants between human capital and organization and social and political capital. For example, T1 pointed out that in Turkey,
“dismissed academics are structurally oppressed beyond 'freedom of doing science'. How can they even produce?”
And, as a Yemeni colleague (Y1) put it, there is a clear
“lack of community awareness about the importance of social psychological research.”
These human capital and organization issues also interact with disciplinary demands adopted in dominant Western institutions and affecting international publication standards (Bou Zeineddine et al., 2022). As a colleague in Lebanon (L1) noted:
“Most international journals now favor papers with multiple studies or large samples (or complex analyses). Data collection in Lebanon (and the Arab region) is very difficult, and due to the scarcity of PhD programs, it is also challenging to maintain a large research group/team that can take on some responsibilities for elaborate methodologies, analyses, or writing.”
Similarly, a colleague in Russia (R1) stated that an obstacle to doing research was:
“General demand for publishing – everybody publishes the same thing again and again, [be]cause it is impossible to conduct [something] significant and publish 3 articles a year”
Thus our participants recognize that the difficulties they face are generally structural. Non-Northern scholars are sometimes also aware of how modern-colonial systems of knowledge production amplify these problems and favor those who are already advantaged (e.g., demands on publication quantity, types, and numbers of studies, and methods).
Likewise, non-GN participants’ qualitative remarks we discussed in relation to inadequacies in material capital also clearly link such inadequacies to social and political capital. Participants spoke of corruption, nepotism, national status, regulations around international collaborations, and public regard as factors in whether funding for research was available, what sources it was available from, and how it was awarded.
We also investigated social and political capital beliefs explicitly in our quantitative measures. Participants outside the GN reported research difficulties due to being accorded less recognition or respect by their own societies. They did so more frequently than colleagues in the GN (Table 2). Over a third of all participants (35%) reported that lack of respect for social psychology as a discipline was a difficulty in conducting research in their countries. Participants in both the GS and SEE were more likely to report this difficulty compared to participants in the GN, χ2(2) = 17.20, p < .001, Cramer’s V = .28. This is directly related to the lower relevance of the discipline’s main foci and methods of research to non-Northern contexts, which is an effect partially brought about by scientistic mimicry emphasizing topics more favored by Northern scholars and institutions (e.g., Bou Zeineddine et al., 2022; Martín-Baró, 1994).
Regarding political capital, restrictions in freedom to conduct research as an obstacle to producing any research were uncommon and differences across regions were not reliable (20.3% in the GS, 13.3% in SEE, and 11.6% in GN). However, we found that restrictions in freedom were more likely to be reported as influencing topics of choice, and were more frequently reported outside the GN. These differences between regions held on average (see Figure 3). But even in some Northern nations, topic choice could be fraught – a colleague in Japan (J1) stated that research on “sensitive topics such as discrimination would be difficult.”
Examining this asymmetry more closely, we asked participants to tell us how influential each of seven institutional, social, political, and professional agents were on their own choice(s) of research topic(s). Overall, the greatest influences on the topics were the researchers themselves and national funding agencies, followed by international funding agencies (see Supplemental C – Figure 1).
We found that participants did not differ across regions in their estimates of the extent to which the researchers themselves or their research groups influenced their topics of study (p > .05). But national funding agencies had less influence in SEE than in either the GS or GN, F(2,202) = 9.73, p < .001. On the other hand, international funding agencies, F(2, 191) = 4.03, p = .019) and institutional management, F(2,204) = 5.64, p = .004, had a greater perceived influence on topic choice in the GS than in the GN, with SEE intermediate between them. Both public opinion, F(2,209) = 5.85, p = .003, and religious authorities, F(2,205) = 31.45, p < .001, had greater perceived influence in the GS than in either SEE or GN. Furthermore, political and legal authorities also had greater influence on topic of choice in both the GS and SEE than they did in the GN, F(2,207) = 13.01, p < .001), and greater influence in the GS than in SEE (see Table 3).
|Sources of influence||GS||SEE||GN|
|National funding agencies||4.04b||3.56a||4.34b|
|International funding agencies||3.87a||3.37a,b||3.19b|
|Political and legal authorities||2.77a||2.23b||1.63c|
Note. Subscripts indicate homogeneous subsets based on pairwise post-hoc analyses (Tamhane’s T2).
Very few respondents (3.4% of sample) listed qualitative additions to this question on sources of influence on topics of choice. They included Westernization, globalized funding, public opinion, university type and size, and research traditions. Two participants, both from the GN, also cited ideology and national values as additional influences.
Overall, we found inadequate social and political capital to be an asymmetric disadvantage for non-GN social psychologists in the conduct of research. We also observed that this disadvantage and other disadvantages in terms of material and human capital inadequacies reinforced one another. Trends in disciplinary standards and systems further amplified these disadvantages.
Globally, our colleagues were critical of the state of the field. They reported precarious and unfavorable work conditions, lack of resources, isolation from each other, pervasive nepotism and status biases, and substantial inequality within and across countries. Simultaneously, they reported struggling with increasingly excessive and biased Northern disciplinary standards (see also, Gjorgjioska & Tomicic, 2019) and institutionally and nationally-enforced mimicry of these standards (see also, Hanafi & Arvanitis, 2014; Martín-Baró, 1994). Social psychologists working outside the North reported being disadvantaged by these effects in more ways and to a greater degree than in the GN. They were more cognizant of the ways in which their (relative) deprivation was rooted in disciplinary, societal, and global systems. Our respondents noted how non-Northerners’ disadvantages in human, material, and social and political capital were amplified by Northern/hegemonic standards for the international mainstream of the discipline (see also Nyúl et al., 2021). Participants also noted that biases in collaborations and institutional and governmental preferences favored work that mimicked or depended on Northern research.
The pattern of social psychologists’ beliefs about the conducting and production of research parallels that of their beliefs about international publication (Bou Zeineddine et al., 2022). Participants from all regions (most prominently non-GN) reported biases and structural disadvantages in conducting research and offered mainly systemic attributions for these. We found that especially non-GN social psychologists were aware of being caught in a double-bind between collective systemic disadvantages and lack of alternatives, coercing compliance with disciplinary, institutional, and broader trends in their professional and societal environments. Furthermore, we continued to see reports of intersectional devaluations and disadvantage; social psychologists recognized that national-cultural and disciplinary disadvantages and biases are compounded by career stage, gender, status, age, politics, material disadvantage, and personal connections.
Beyond these parallels, however, we also found deep concerns in the GS regarding the societal role of and appreciation for the discipline and freedom and autonomy of research topic choice. As Hanafi (2016) noted, authoritarian regimes in post-colonial societies have particularities that entail massive influences on knowledge production, including asymmetries arising from self-, formal, and informal censorship, and the lower likelihood of research on locally relevant topics. It is possible that differences in funding in our data are not merely effects of national wealth disparities. There is a difference between low research capacity due to a small pie of funds available for governments from which to offer research a slice, versus governments starving researchers and research because they are uninterested in or hostile towards research that may illustrate the shortcomings of their governance.
The findings on freedom of topic choice and concerns about respect and appreciation for the field suggest that we have been mistaken to neglect sociocultural and institutional-cultural dynamics’ impacts on inequity in the field. Differences between nations in these dynamics may be due to (among other factors): a) novelty of the discipline in many nations, b) lack of relevance and utility of the research outside the GN (e.g., Bou Zeineddine et al., 2022), c) variation in degrees of suppression by governments (e.g., Hanafi, 2016), and/or d) mismatches between the value orientations of disciplinary concerns with prevalent societal norms (e.g., Bilewicz et al., 2015). Ideological influences on political priorities may also play a role in how the public perceives the outputs of science, including in our discipline (e.g., Azevedo & Jost, 2021). There are intersections here as well with the kinds of research we conduct – applied social psychological research which can earn widespread public appreciation is costly, time-consuming, requires forming and maintaining ties to both local communities and authorities, and requires a certain amount of openness from the researcher, institutions, journals, and the discipline to field experimentation and failure. These characteristics and conditions are currently less than ideally afforded in the international mainstream for non-Northern scholars (see also, Bou Zeineddine et al., 2022).
But these social-normative problems also intersect with prejudices prevalent in all societies that obstruct the fostering and utilization of study and research in social science. Hughes (2000), for instance, has observed that among science students in the UK, social science is gendered through association with social concerns and epistemological uncertainty, and therefore is devalued in contrast to the masculinity of other sciences. Many areas of psychology are both devalued and gendered in their labor force and purposes (e.g., Kulis et al., 2002; Leslie et al., 2015). There are likely prejudices facing the discipline and its applications in policy that stem directly from sexism and hierarchical conformity-- patterns that are often closely tied to authoritarian governance (e.g., Dogangün, 2019).
Modern-colonial academic systems’ advantage is for high-volume, labor-intensive, fast, high-cost, parochial, positivist research (e.g., Phaf, 2020; Wahab et al., 2022). It is well-resourced large labs embedded in networks of training, hiring, reading, citing, presenting, and funding well-connected to the Northern mainstream of the discipline that benefit. For others, this creates an unsustainable and unrealistic set of demands and hyper-competitiveness as well as inequities, unethical behavior, and the neglect of non-Northern psychology (e.g., Buela-Casal, 2014; Bou Zeineddine et al., 2022). It is important to highlight that participants noted that the lower productivity and disadvantages we report facing non-Northerners are partly due to this GN emphasis on quantity in the discipline, and non-Northerners’ lack of affordance to cope with this trend as well as their rejection of such assembly-line research standards (see also, Adams et al., 2015; Bou Zeineddine et al., 2022). Future research in this area should take into account not only regional differences in the constraints experienced by social psychologists, but also researchers’ ideological/epistemic differences in shaping these constraints (e.g., critical psychologists in the GN vs. mainstream psychologists in the GS/SEE vs. critical psychologists in the GS/SEE).
Our data support the notion that social psychology is subject to the fundamental systemic failures in academia more broadly, whether due to precaritization (e.g., Holmwood & Marcuello Servós, 2019), neoliberalization (e.g., Gupta et al., 2016), siloization (or bubble/echo chamber effects; e.g., Byrne & Callaghan, 2013, p. 3; Hanafi & Arvanitis, 2014), or modern-colonialism (e.g., Adams et al., 2015). These trends are ongoing in academia and societies, and their effects appear particularly severe for scholars outside the GN in our data. These systemic failures drive and exacerbate various crises in psychology such as academic siloization/parochialism (Bergland, 2018; Phaf, 2020), the replication crisis (Callard, 2022), and the methodological, epistemological, and relevance crises (Dafermos, 2015).
There are methodological flaws in this study that limit its generalizability. Our sample is not representative of nations, the regional groupings we formed, or of Anglophone scholars outside the U.S. However, these flaws are more likely to underestimate the strength of the differences between regions rather than overestimate them compared to a larger and more representative sample including scholars in nations we could not reach, non-Anglophone, and U.S. scholars. This is especially likely given what we know of these groups from prior literature (e.g., Oppong, 2019; Thalmayer et al., 2021).
Our measures were tailored to be exploratory and face-valid, rather than psychometrically ideal for reliability, validity, or measurement invariance. More importantly, there are many facets of social psychology and social psychologists’ lives we did not touch upon (e.g., teaching, challenges in publishing in local/regional journals, overall labor and living conditions) that future research should delve more into.
We note that generally the research obstacles we identified are tied to disadvantages in human, material, and social-political capital, which are in turn related to both global history and contemporary systems reinforcing standing inequalities. Each of these disadvantages can be linked to the degree to which Northern nations, especially ex-colonial and neocolonial nations (e.g., the U.S.), are responsible for the continuing systemic dependency and mimicry of others (e.g., Alatas, 2000; Martín-Baró, 1994; Readsura Decolonial Editorial Collective, 2021). In thinking of the reported international asymmetries in our data, one cannot neglect GN nations’ direct role in establishing the globalized neoliberal order that tacitly permitted or actively facilitated authoritarianism (e.g., Bruff & Tansel, 2019; Levitsky & Way, 2010), right-wing governance (e.g., Schmitz, 2006), inequality (Navarro, 2007), and corruption (e.g., Warner, 2007), especially in societies weakly linked to the GN.
Furthermore, GN nations have enacted policies amplifying skilled emigration patterns and attracting researchers for training and citizenship, and forcing developing countries to respond in several damaging ways (e.g., by establishing offshore branches of Western academic institutions in their nations to retain talent or to import GN academics, curricula, or certifications; Sahay, 2014). The homogenizing impacts of these policies on researchers can be seen in our data, in that for participants who obtained their doctorates in the GN, their beliefs were often more in line with those of GN participants, even when they were working in the GS or SEE (see Supplemental A).
Thus, non-Northern scholars’ disadvantages are irreducible to organically arising “cultural differences”, “developing world problems”, or national wealth discrepancies. Symptomatic remedies will be insufficient and patronizing (see also, Bou Zeineddine et al., 2022). Northern nations and systems must reform in ways that can address the consequences of their histories and the dominance of their contemporary systems and redress the disadvantages they have caused and continue to cause – even as other nations work to recover and create their own systems and autonomy. Northern nations themselves are beginning to experience the consequences of their historical and contemporary actions. They only need to look at what these effects have wrought upon their former and current victims to see what is in store for themselves if they do not change tack, rapidly and radically. Academia and social psychology, whether in the West or the rest, are not sheltered from these macro-level historical trends and dynamics; our data exemplify this clearly.
Systemic explanations for the disadvantages facing non-Northern and disadvantaged Northern social psychologists are hinted at in our qualitative data here and more extensively discussed in our analysis of the international publication system (Bou Zeineddine et al., 2022), as well as being widely documented in a variety of literatures in the social sciences. It is clear that the future of research in our discipline depends on our ability to understand and cope with hierarchy-enhancing systems internationally, nationally, in academia, institutionally, societally, and their intersectional implications. We argue that the most sustainable solution to our many disciplinary problems and inequities is orienting our discipline’s systems and its membership to center emancipative, intersectional, anti-hierarchical struggles both within and across our countries and within and beyond academia (see also, Gjorgjioska & Tomicic, 2019; Walsh & Gokani, 2014).