American Exceptionalism in Science: A tiny, tiny analysis

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Morning folks. We were doing some improvement work on PubTrawlr this morning, and decided just to play around with the social services database that it pulls from. Since the metadata doesn’t have much information apart from journal titles, that’s where I started.

Without going into the long and sordid backstory, I have been really resistant to using word clouds. My good colleague, Dr. Julia Moore, shared that they resonate more with audiences. And so, below is a word cloud of the most frequently occurring words in journal titles. What jumped out a lot for me was the big old “American” near the top.

This reminded me of the classic article, Most People are not WEIRD, that argues that research participants do not reflect a global sample, and therefore the results need to be viewed through that contextualized lens. To dig deeper, I used Named Entity Recognition (NER) to pull any geographical tags in the journal titles that might indicate their focus area. This led to the below figure

So this…..isn’t that bad? The Americas still dominate, but there are a good handful of journals specializing in other areas. Some of these terms are off, but I didn’t want to spend all morning breaking this down. I did a really quick analysis of journals with some combination of “global” in the title, and ended up with 104 of them.

Of course, the big caveat is that not every journal broadcasts where it’s from in its title. The number of journals that have these regional or global titles constitute on 1.2% of the total database. So, we still almost certainly have a WEIRD problem.

Now, to check out the Journal of Mississippi Academy of Sciences.

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