Canadian Journal of Psychology: A Review of Subject, Language, Funding, Experimental Vs. Clinical, and Place of Origin of Research Articles Published from 1974 to 1992

Nicole Brink, Neel Dulal, Pam Paulhus, Shannon Wolf,
Calvin Chong, Scott Barry, Larry Andreutti & Simi Saini


1.0 Introduction 2.0 Trends
2.1 Clinical vs. Experimental
2.2 Subjects of research
2.3 Funding
2.4 Language of publication
2.5 Institutions

1.0 Introduction

The Canadian Journal of Psychology has been a prominent publication in Canadian psychology for many years. In analyzing this journal through a historical perspective, which encompassed the last 15 years, the authors looked for trends or patterns in research. The areas reviewed are the following: human subjects or animal subjects, male or female subjects, French or English article, experimental or clinical study, where the research was conducted, and what organization funded the study. As the relevant issues in society have changed over the last 15 years, it was anticipated that the Canadian Journal of Psychology would reflect these changes.

Researchers first looked at this publication over the last 15 years and examined the prevalence of human versus animal subjects. It was expected that there would be a higher incidence of animal studies in the earlier years, with a general decrease as the years progressed. This prediction was based on the emergence of various animal rights movements and propaganda in the media during the 1980s. Contrary to this prediction, our findings indicated no such pattern. Use of animals in psychology experiments that have been published in the Canadian Journal of Psychology has been sporadic, with no striking trend found over the last 15 years. For example, the most animal studies published was in 1984, when out of 43 articles in the Journal that year, only 14 used animal subjects. In contrast, the years with the fewest animal studies were 1988 and 1977. In 1988 there were 33 articles published, and only one study used animal subjects. In 1977, out of 17 articles there was, again, only one study utilizing animal subjects. Statistically speaking, over the years reviewed, it was found that out of 466 articles published in the journal, 85% were studies using human subjects, whereas 14% were studies using animal subjects. As there was no obvious pattern evident it is nearly impossible to predict the number of animal studies that will be conducted in the future.

Over the past decade and a half, as previously indicated, humans were used most frequently as subjects. Therefore, it was necessary to examine the gender differences of the subjects. Prior to the research, it was expected that there would be an overwhelming bias in favor of male subjects. Since science has been a male dominated field for so long, it was assumed that the Canadian Journal of Psychology would reflect this bias. Additionally, it was predicted that a decrease in this phenomenon would occur over the years. Overall, the research was less biased than anticipated. It was found that the majority of the experiments used both male and female subjects. For example, over the years, 95% of the studies included both male and female subjects. The year 1978 saw the greatest percentage of exclusively male subjects-15%. In that year, out of 22 experiments, 2 exclusively used males. Although most experiments used both males and females, in cases where there was only one gender used it was most often males. This is evident in the fact that in any given year, no more than 4% of the experiments used only female subjects.

2.0 Trends

In examining trends in the types of research published in the Canadian Journal of Psychology, an analysis of the incidence of clinical and experimental studies was conducted. Broad categories were used to allow for all the articles to be included in the review. Before analyzing the data, it is necessary to define the categories of clinical and experimental psychology. For the purpose of this review, clinical psychology has been defined as any study that focuses on issues of "abnormal" psychology. Examples of such studies include those involving psychopathology and its assessment, therapy, treatment, and related psycholegal issues. Experimental studies included those that were considered to be academic in nature and that were not conducted for the purpose of application.

2.1 Clinical Vs. Experimental

Generally, it was found that over the 15 year span, more studies published were experimental than clinical. The finding of more experimental studies being published was consistent for every year and no significant fluctuation was evident. Several possible explanations for such a finding are possible. However, the true reasons for the disparity in the number of clinical versus experimental studies published is unclear. One might theorize that the focus of many clinical studies on societal problems may have led to these studies receiving more funding. Thus, more clinical studies would be conducted and published. Notwithstanding the overall relevance of experimental studies, it was observed that in 1983 a total of 31% of the studies were clinical. This was the highest percentage of clinical studies done in any of the years. This particular finding may be related to a key sociohistorical development that occurred in Canada in 1982: the implementation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Perhaps there was a greater focus on social issues which in turn increased the number of clinical studies published. Again, this is just speculation, it is important to note that no inference can be made as to whether the nature of the studies published reflects the division of studies actually conducted in Canada or elsewhere.

2.2 Subjects of Research

In regard to the subjects used in the studies, it was found that for clinical studies, more animals were used in the earlier years than in later years. For the purpose of this review, we will exclude humans from the category of "animals". As the years went by, fewer animals and more humans were used for clinical studies. For example, it was found that in 1974 there were 16 clinical studies, with animals representing 71% of the subjects. Similarly, in 1975 there were 7 clinical studies with 67 % of the subjects constituted of animals. In contrast, in 1989, of 21 clinical studies all used human subjects. Also, in 1990, of only 10 clinical studies, all subjects were human.

This phenomenon may be explained by the recent developments in technology. In the past, it was necessary to use animals in clinical studies in order to prevent harming humans. However, today it is more feasible to obtain data on humans from clinical studies by using humans through the use of sophisticated computers and simulation technology. For experimental studies, it was found that the percentage of subjects that were animals usually fluctuated between 3 and 19 %, 1978 being the exception to this rule. Within the 15 year span, human subjects were used in 72% to 100% of experiments.

2.3 Funding

The funding aspect of the published studies must also be addressed. It was difficult to determine whether more grants by specific agencies were given to clinical or experimental studies. Many of the studies failed to outline from where the funding came, for both the clinical and experimental studies. In general, for the majority of the publications, it was the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) that was given credit for the funding of both clinical and experimental studies.

With regard to whether the articles were French or English, it was found that out of 36 clinical studies, 11% were in French. On the other hand, of the 426 experimental studies, 8% were French. Thus, the journal was publishing roughly similar percentages of French clinical and experimental studies over all.

The funding of French and English language articles was analyzed by researchers in this review as well. It was found that the Quebec Ministry of Education funded six of the 466 studies found in the Canadian Journal of Psychology from 1974 to 1992. Of these six studies, four, or 67%, were written in French. This may suggest that researchers are more likely to receive grants from the Quebec Ministry of Education if results are published in French. This is understandable because the Quebec government organizations encourage French language usage and would naturally want as much research as possible to be published in French. Thus, much of the research conducted in Quebec was published in French even though the majority of Canadians speak primarily English.

In the last 15 years of the Canadian Journal of Psychology's publications many funding sources were cited. Although not all articles mentioned funding source, of those that did, fully 46% came from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council. The remainder came from numerous other agencies and universities. The most frequently cited sources (accounting for 17% of sources in total) other than the NSERC were the Medical Research Council, the National Institute of Mental Health, the Canadian Council Leave Fellowship, the National Science Foundation of the United States, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. The rest were too numerous to count and consisted of less that 1.5% each of the funding sources. This "other" category made up 37% of sources listed.

The National Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) was primarily responsible for Canadian studies. Ninety-four percent of its funds went to Canadian research. This is not surprising, since the NSERC is a Canadian foundation. The remaining 6% went to US researchers. The next most frequent supporter, the MRC, accounted for only 5% of all sources of funds. Seventy-five percent of their funding went to Canadian studies, while the remaining 25% was divided equally between US and international research teams. Perhaps the more specifically medical agenda of the MRC leads it to seek out more international contributions than it's counterpart, the NSERC.

The NIMH, an American organization, contributed 78% of its funding to US researchers and 22% to Canadians. The Canadian based SSHRC directed 78% of its funding toward Canadian researchers, and 22% to US researchers. Finally, and not surprisingly, the QME, which only represents 1.8% of sources in total, contributed its funding exclusively to studies at Quebec universities. It may be noted that none of the most frequently cited funding sources contributed to international studies. This is likely due to the small number of international studies and the large range in place of origin. Almost every international article cited a different funding source. Also, few international studies originated in the same place. In addition, the prominent Canadian funding sources the SSHRE and MRC are noted for their considerable funding of US projects. Each of these contributed at least 22% of funds to US studies. The much larger population of psychological researchers in the USA accounts for their seemingly unavoidable contribution to Canadian psychological research.

2.4 Language of Publication

Language was examined in some detail by researchers looking at the Canadian Journal of Psychology in the present review. Since Canada is a bilingual country one would expect to find articles in both of the official languages, English and French. It was found that the majority of studies, 92%, were written in English. The majority of those articles published in French described studies conducted in Canada (61%), and of those, most were written in Quebec (73%).

The majority of studies conducted in Quebec were published in French (71%), while only 2% of articles from the rest of Canada were published in French. Clearly, the major source of French Canadian articles is Quebec. This is not surprising, since Quebec is the only province where the majority of the population speaks French. Research conducted in English Canada would naturally be in English so as to be understood by local academics. Of the international French language articles, all were conducted in France. This is another expected finding since French is spoken more widely in France than anywhere else in the world.

2.5 Institutions

With respect to the institutions from which the Canadian Journal of Psychology receives submissions, the researchers expected most submissions to be Canadian. Indeed a majority, 73%, of the articles came from Canadian institutions. Surprisingly however, 19% of the articles came from American cities and the remaining eight percent came from assorted international areas. Researchers saw this finding as a positive one, in that, the Canadian Journal of Psychology does not appear to limit their focus exclusively to the work of Canadian researchers. The field of psychology is very broad and the Journal is wise to include many important articles from around the world.

Although the majority of the articles analyzed were in English, they usually did contain abstracts written in French. Of the many articles that were written in English, 75% were Canadian. The balance of the articles contained an American contribution of 20% and a five percent international contribution. These findings are not unexpected considering the fact that English is one of the five most commonly spoken languages in the world.

On the other hand, French articles were fairly uncommon. Only 8% of the articles were primarily French in content. Seventy-two percent of the French articles came from Canada, exemplifying the bilingual characteristic of this country. Most of the articles that were primarily French came from Quebec city or Montreal, and the remainder of the articles from Canada only contained a French abstract. It was also found, not surprisingly, that none of the French articles were American. The remaining 28% of the articles that were French came from various institutions in France such as Paris and Poitiers.

All areas of the Canadian Journal of Psychology reviewed by the researches showed interesting trends and inter-relationships. However, the implications of the findings for future issues of the Journal are difficult to predict. It is expected, however, that non-Canadians will continue to contribute and be an important feature of the Canadian Journal of Psychology. Yet, perhaps with Canada's growing population, increasing numbers of university graduates, and numerous new universities cropping up, more of the Journal's contributors in future years may be Canadian researchers.