Journal Article

North and South: naming practices and the hidden dimension of global disparities in knowledge production

Castro Torres, A. F., Alburez-Gutierrez, D.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 119:10, e2119373119 (2022)
Open Access


The legacy of Eurocentrism continues to affect knowledge production in the social sciences. Evidence produced in and about the global North is assumed to be more “universal,” whereas evidence from or produced in the global South is considered valid only for specific contexts (i.e., “localized”). We argue that these dynamics are evident in the phrasing of articles’ titles based on the examination of more than half a million social science research articles indexed by Scopus (1996 to 2020). We find that empirical articles written by authors affiliated to institutions of the global North, using data from these countries, are less likely to include a concrete geographical reference in their titles. When authors are affiliated to global South institutions, and use evidence from global South countries, the names of these countries are more likely to be part of the article’s title. We confirm this overarching pattern by looking at 1) differences between world regions, 2) differences within world regions, and 3) patterns in 23 social science subfields. These gaps are large and consistent, yet article naming conventions are merely the “tip of the iceberg” of the imbalances in knowledge production between the global North and South.

Keywords: World, inequality, science
The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.