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The “I” in IESBS

By: , Posted on: February 23, 2015

9780080970868Elsevier has just released the new (second) edition of the International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences.  The first edition was published in 2001 and in recognition of the spectacular growth of the social and behavioral sciences outside of Europe and North America since then, part of the mandate for the second edition was to increase the “internationalism” of the work.  Just what does this mean substantively or geographically, and how was it achieved?

A great deal of what we think of as social science knowledge is based on biased samples of WEIRD people – that is, Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic (Henrich, Heine, and Noranzayan, 2010).  The WEIRD represent a rather exotic minority group by world standards, and the challenge for IESBS 2/e was therefore to (1) recruit non-WEIRD editors and authors; and (2) persuade all authors to incorporate comparative, cross-cultural, and international themes and perspectives into their entries.

The first of these goals was definitely realized.  The editors who produced the first edition were drawn from nine countries:  The United States, Germany, Italy, Canada, Sweden, Australia, France, Switzerland and the UK.  Two-thirds of those editors were from the USA and only 13% were women.  Editors for the new edition represent 21 countries, US scholars make up only 38% of the total, and women comprise 36%.  Thus, the proportional representation of women among the editors was nearly tripled while the predominance of the USA was halved.  Nations represented in 2/e but not 1/e include Luxembourg, Greece, Finland, Japan, China, Ireland, Singapore, Spain, Russia, Austria, Israel and the Netherlands.

Adding the 2/e International Board of Consulting Editors to the discussion (a group convened as a resource and sounding board) increases the internationalism even further. Countries on that Board that are not otherwise represented include three Central and South American nations (Venezuela, Argentina, Costa Rica), several Asian nations (the Philippines, Malaysia, South Korea, India), a few Western European nations (Norway, Denmark), two representatives from Central and Eastern Europe (Hungary, Croatia), two from the Middle East (Lebanon, Qatar), and one from South Africa.  These additions bring to 35 the total number of countries on the IESBS editorial team.

Much the same can be said of the 2/e authors.  The editors of the first edition noted in their Introduction that while authors from 51 nations were represented in the work, 58% of the authors were from North America and another 35% were from (mainly Western) Europe.  “As to gender composition, 21% of the [1/e] authors were women.”  In 2/e, the proportion of women among the authors has increased slightly to approximately 25% and the percentage of North American authors has declined to fewer than half.   Again, North America and Western Europe contribute the larger share but the growing representation of other authors is encouraging.

The international scope of the project is more pronounced than editors’ and authors’ current affiliations would suggest.  Consider Michiru Nagatsu, author of the 2/e entry on the history of behavioral economics.  Nagatsu was born in Japan, educated at Exeter and the London School of Economics, and wrote his entry while on a post-doctoral fellowship in Finland.  Or Guillermina Jasso, both an author and an editor.  Jasso was born in the USA, received her PhD from Johns Hopkins, and is on the faculty at New York University—clearly an American.  Yet her parents were Mexican of Basque, Spanish, Portuguese and Dutch origins; Spanish is her native language; she has published with co-authors from Germany, India, Israel, Mexico, the Netherlands, and Sweden; and she holds a permanent Research Fellowship at the Institute for the Study of Labor, in Bonn, Germany.

What is true of Nagatsu and Jasso is true in degrees of virtually the entire roster of IESBS participants.  If one includes place of birth, citizenship, where educated, sites of research, visiting appointments, sites of fellowships, honorary professorships, invited lectures, and on through the highlights in a modern academic career, every nook and cranny of the globe (save, possibly, Antarctica) is represented somewhere on the team.  The true measure of internationalism is not so much where people come from or currently are, but rather the extent to which they bring a sensitivity to cultural and national differences into their work.   Whether this was or was not realized in 2/e is for readers to decide.

PDF from the International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences on “Crime Trends and Debates”

James D. Wright

Editor in Chief

International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences, Second Edition


About the Editor

james wrightJames D. Wright is an author, educator, and the Provost’s Distinguished Research Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Central Florida. Wright also serves as the Director of the UCF Institute for Social and Behavioral Sciences and as honorary Editor-in-Chief of the journal Social Science Research. His previous editing experience also includes a twenty-year stint as editor of the Aldine de Gruyter book series Social Institutions and Social Change, two editions of the Handbook of Survey Research (Academic Press, 1983; Emerald Publishing, 2010), and service on the editorial boards of numerous journals. He is the author of 21 books and scholarly monographs on topics ranging from homelessness to research methods to NASCAR, and he has published more than 300 journal articles, book chapters, reviews, essays and polemics.

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