Foreign Authors in Italian Journals. Few and Expected Guests

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The ability of Italian researchers in Political Science to publish in international journals (and therefore, to participate in the international scientific debate) is an important sign of internationalization of the discipline. However, it is not the only one. It is also interesting to investigate how the main Italian journals in Political science are open toward (and attractive for) the contributions of foreign scholars. We, therefore, conducted a little research on the articles published by the main Italian journals in Political Science in recent decades.

The period taken into consideration starts in 1990 for the Italian Journal of Political Science (RISP) and from the year of their first publication with regard to “Quaderni di Scienza Politica (QUASP)” and “Rivista Italiana di Politiche Pubbliche (RIPP). They were started in 1994 and 2004, respectively. The last numbers that we considered are the issues already published in 2014. We considered, within each issue, the total number of articles (excluding the introductions and the editorials), the number of foreign authors, the number of articles with at least one foreign author and their percentage over the overall number of articles and the number of articles written in English. In Table 1, the data grouped by year are reported.

Table 1. RISP, Quasp and RIPP articles by language and author nationality, 1990–2014

Total Articles Total Foreign Authors At least 1 foreign auth. Articles in English % of articles w/ foreign auth.
RISP QUASP RIPP RISP QUASP RIPP RISP QUASP RIPP RISP QUASP RIPP RISP QUASP RIPP
1990 17 3 3 0 17.65
1991 0 0 0 0.00
1992 13 5 5 0 38.46
1993 14 2 2 0 14.29
1994 18 13 3 0 2 0 0 0 11.11 0.00
1995 14 15 6 2 5 2 0 0 35.71 13.33
1996 17 15 3 0 3 0 0 0 17.65 0.00
1997 14 15 3 0 2 0 0 0 14.29 0.00
1998 15 12 5 1 5 1 0 0 33.33 8.33
1999 15 13 6 1 5 1 0 0 33.33 7.69
2000 15 15 3 1 2 1 0 0 13.33 6.67
2001 17 15 2 2 1 1 0 1 5.88 6.67
2002 14 18 0 6 0 5 0 1 0.00 27.78
2003 17 21 8 6 6 6 0 0 35.29 28.57
2004 18 17 16 6 4 4 5 4 2 0 3 2 27.78 23.53 12.50
2005 19 16 14 1 3 0 1 3 0 0 3 1 5.26 18.75 0.00
2006 17 13 15 1 2 1 1 2 1 0 2 2 5.88 15.38 6.67
2007 15 18 17 4 3 2 4 2 2 0 2 0 26.67 11.11 11.76
2008 15 19 16 5 2 9 4 2 7 0 0 2 26.67 10.53 43.75
2009 15 23 16 3 4 4 3 3 3 0 0 3 20.00 13.04 18.75
2010 16 19 16 2 3 3 2 3 1 2 2 1 12.50 15.79 6.25
2011 16 18 19 5 1 0 0 3 1 3 0 2 18.75 5.56 0.00
2012 21 23 15 2 2 0 2 2 0 3 7 0 9.52 8.70 0.00
2013 16 16 17 6 0 4 3 0 3 13 0 9 18.75 0.00 17.65
2014 8 5 10 2 0 0 2 0 0 8 0 7 25.00 0.00 0.00

We tried to answer three questions: 1) Is there a trend in Italian journals to attract, over time, a greater number of articles written by foreign authors? 2) How are they presumably selected? 3) Does the acceptance of articles written in English increase the number of publications written by foreign authors?

1. An erratic and downward trend

In at least two out of three journals, the best time for the publication of foreign authors seems to have passed. RIPP reached its peak of publications by foreign authors in 2008 (7 articles) and QUASP in 2002 (5 articles). Since then, the trend has been downward. In both journals, since their start till early 2014, the articles of foreign scholars published during a year have averaged about 10% of the total number of articles published. However, the variability from year to year has been very high. Such a percentage is slightly higher if we consider the articles published by RISP, and it reaches 18%. Even in this case, there is considerable variability, and since the beginning of the period, the trend is slightly downward.


Figure 1a. Percentage of foreign authors per year: QUASP (1994-2014)

% of foreign authors per year, QUASP

Figure 1b. Percentage of foreign authors per year: RIPP (2004-2014)

% of foreign authors per year, RIPP

Figure 1c. Percentage of foreign authors per year: RISP (1990-2014)

% of foreign authors per year, RISP


2. How are they selected?

Foreigners who have published in Italian journals do not seem to have followed the standard procedures of submission that are followed by the majority of Italian authors.

QUASP, especially in the early years, republished some contributions of classic authors or exploited papers presented at conferences and symposia by fairly known authors. RIPP maximizes the number of foreign authors on occasion, in special issues that are dedicated to a specific topic. On the contrary, RISP hosts contributions by foreign authors in its regular issues. These articles, however—especially between 1990 and 2000—are almost always written by well-known and established authors. It is very plausible that the large majority of these articles were solicited by the journal’s editor(s).

3. English does not make a difference

The youngest journals have immediately begun to accept papers written in English while RISP published its first article in English in 2010. Lately, this delay has been fully overcome. From 2013 on, RISP hosts only articles written in English. With respect to QUASP and RIPP, we can calculate (for the whole period) the correlation between the number of articles in English language in each issue and the number of articles written by at least one foreign author. In neither of the two journals, the English article is strongly related to the nationality of the authors. The correlation index for RIPP is 0.36 and weakly significant (at 0.05 level). For QUASP, the correlation index is even lower (0.26) and not significant. In case of RISP, we calculated the percentage of articles written by at least one foreign author before and after 2010, the year when, for the first time, articles in English were accepted. The percentage is slightly higher in the first period compared to the second (about 19% versus 17%). Basically, it does not seem that the use of English has led to an increase of foreign authors although it is always possible that the adoption of English has prevented a further decline.

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