Medical Journal of Dr. D.Y. Patil Vidyapeeth

: 2022  |  Volume : 15  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 3--5

Deconstructing structural racism and structural capitalism in academic publishing

Ishan Lamba, Varsha Shinde, Zahid Shaikh, Sumalya Tripathi, Vishal Bhatt 
 Department of Emergency Medicine, Dr. D.Y. Patil Medical College, Dr. D.Y. Patil Vidyapeeth, Pune, Maharashtra, India

Correspondence Address:
Ishan Lamba
Department of Emergency Medicine, Dr. D.Y. Patil Medical College, Dr. D.Y. Patil Vidyapeeth, Pune, Maharashtra

How to cite this article:
Lamba I, Shinde V, Shaikh Z, Tripathi S, Bhatt V. Deconstructing structural racism and structural capitalism in academic publishing.Med J DY Patil Vidyapeeth 2022;15:3-5

How to cite this URL:
Lamba I, Shinde V, Shaikh Z, Tripathi S, Bhatt V. Deconstructing structural racism and structural capitalism in academic publishing. Med J DY Patil Vidyapeeth [serial online] 2022 [cited 2022 Jan 22 ];15:3-5
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Full Text

Structural racism is defined as “a system in which public policies, institutional practices, cultural representations, and other norms work in various, often reinforcing ways to perpetuate racial group inequity.”[1]

The term has been thrown into the limelight with the resignation of Dr. Edward H. Livingston from the editorial board of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) as the result of a controversial podcast in which he suggested that to deal with the issue, one needs to discard the term “racism” as people might be “offended” by it. JAMA has made all efforts to erase the issue by removing the podcast (audio and transcript), deleting related tweets, and issuing an apology. However, in the internet age, once the genie is out of the bottle, it is impossible to put it back again.[2] Consequentially, editor in chief, Dr. Howard Buchner, also had to resign.[3]

An unrelated incident out of Georgetown University Law Center has also fueled the flames of the debate regarding racism in academia.[4] Even in that incident, both the involved professors-Sandra Sellers and David Batson have relinquished their positions. The issues seem to have reached their respective conclusions, but there seems to be little healing that has been rendered to wounds that run deep and wide.

The dialogue regarding discrimination in academics seems to be focused on a specific profile belonging to the United States of America, namely black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC). It is crucial that the discussion cross international borders and be viewed from a global perspective.

Ask any researcher from a developing country, and they will have a tale of woe attesting to their failed academic aspirations and the hurdles; they have to face in being recognized as an equal by their academic peers in the western world. A testament to this fact is a paper by Matthews et al. in which they have revealed the deep chasm that is there between the academicians of the western world and the developing countries, India being one. An interesting paradox that became apparent from the study was that while 84% of the Indian scientists asserted the importance of international collaborations, only 52% actually were able to create such collaborations. The same study also reveals the duality in the barriers faced by the Indian scientists:

The western countries seem to have an inferior opinion regarding the scientific work conducted in IndiaSeed funding, which may be considered the cornerstone of high-quality scientific research, is inadequate as reported by 85% of the Indian responders.[5]

 Structured Capitalism: Fuel for Structural Racism

Inequality in access to resources has been the cynosure of debate at international economic forums for some time now. The rich become richer and poor become poorer – this is the central premise of the meta analysis by Thomas Piketty of the way western capitalism has operated since the 18th century.[6] Resource allocation and value creation are two sides of the same coin. Without monetary aid, relevant research becomes an insurmountable challenge. This access block to funding that exists for certain demographics has been the foundation on which structural racism stands. To put it in context of the debate, one may even call it “structured capitalism.”

The case of open access publishing puts this in context. The relatively high gross domestic product (GDP) of India renders it ineligible to make the list of article processing charging (APC) waivers by any reputable publication house. A deeper audit reveals that only 0.6% of this massive GDP is diverted to research funding. In addition, only a handful of universities have invested in institutional subscriptions.[7] This encapsulates the quagmire underneath the average Indian scientist. They are stuck in a limbo like state where they are considered too affluent to be considered for grants while in reality, they still face the same challenges on the economic front as their peers from the nations listed as eligible for APC waivers.

 Cycle of Implicit bias

The idea of structured capitalism is an accurate reflection of what is happening in academia right now. The published get more publications, the funded get more funds and an exclusive fraternity of scientists has formed, getting into which becomes an arduous task for the outsiders. Taking inspiration from the cycle of implicit bias in clinical medicine,[8] a case can be made for a similar vicious cycle of implicit bias in academic publishing [Figure 1].{Figure 1}

Using the Indian academician as the representative sample, the implicit bias of the editorial boards across the globe prevents them from registering their work in international journals. This leads to lack of visibility in the global arena of academics which further fuels the bias against this demographic. The same model of implicit bias can be applied to any number of ethnic minorities and developing countries. The conclusions would remain the same.

 Peer Pressure to Publish

When the mantra is “Publish or Perish,” the very sentience of the academician rests at the edge of the blade. To be lost in ignominy is equivalent to have never existed at all. Add to that factors of implicit bias, structural racism, and structured capitalism, and it becomes a struggle for intellectual survival. It is at this juncture that the average author faces the ethical dilemma of persistently trying (and failing) to report their work in the journals of repute or to take the easy path to success. This constant tension has led to the tearing of the moral fabric of academic culture of a number of developing economies.

An inadvertent consequence of this culture of peer pressure to publish has led to the breeding of the metaphorical monster in the closet-predatory publishing. According to a recent study by Machacek and Srholec, out of a sample of 172 countries that they studied, India ranked sixth in the list of the countries with most number of publications in journals indexed in the Beall's list as predatory.[9] Most countries listed in the top twenty can be labeled as developing countries. This has created something of a reputation for the scientific authors from the region generating a poor perception about the quality of their writing.[10] Referring back to the cycle of implicit bias [Figure 1], this perception, which largely is a by product of the chain reaction initiated by high open access charges, has widened the gap between the international journals and the Indian authors.

One must accept that this black market of predatory publication, to some extent, thrives because of the prevalence of academic elitism.

 Call to the Academia

The argument does not intend to have an effect where the editors become so wary of the region and race of the author that the quality of the submission is completely ignored. In fact, the validity of the content should be the only parameter for judgment.

The stated perspective is a derivative of the collective experience of the Indian scientific community. However, the impediments are apropos not only to one population. They span the spectrum of any number of ethnic minorities and financially challenged demographics. As the widely accepted doyens of scientific literature, the publications of high repute must act with a sense of moral imperative to create an academic ecosystem of inclusivity. While in the past, commitments to the same have been made,[11] but little has been done to mend the situation.

A common phrase, or its variants, seen in a rejection letter from journal editors is “the article cannot be accepted because of space constraints.” This entire manuscript is an effort to create some for the ones who have, perpetually and inappropriately, been excluded from that “space.”


The author would like to acknowledge all his peers from the scientific community, past and present, who have been subject to any form of bias based on the color of their skin, geographical location, gender, sexual orientation, or religious beliefs. This manuscript is dedicated to them.


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