Preliminary evidence of linguistic bias in academic reviewing

Stephen Politzer-Ahles, Teresa Girolamo, Samantha Ghali

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Recent years have seen a spirited debate over whether there is linguistic injustice in academic publishing. One way that linguistic injustice might occur is if gatekeepers (e.g., peer reviewers and editors) judge the scholarly quality of academic writing more harshly if the writing does not meet expectations for international academic English, even if the content is good. We tested this with a randomized control study in which scholars judged the scientific quality of several scientific abstracts. Each abstract had two versions with identical scientific content, such that the language in one version conformed to standards for international academic English, and the language in the other version did not (but was still comprehensible). While the data are preliminary and the effects statistically inconclusive, both pre-registered and exploratory analyses of the data suggest that scholars may give abstracts lower ratings of scientific quality when the writing does not conform to standards of international academic English. These results suggest that linguistic bias may occur in academic peer reviewing and motivate further study to better understand and address this phenomenon.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100895
JournalJournal of English for Academic Purposes
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2020


  • Academic publishing
  • Implicit bias
  • Linguistic injustice
  • Peer review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language

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