Not long ago, I received an invitation from a foreign journal related to my field, asking me to be a member on the journal’s editorial board. Since the journal was related to my profession, and since it seemed the editing duties would lend an opportunity for more interaction with foreign academics, I thought it would be a positive development and therefore I accepted the offer.
To my surprise, when I checked the list of the journal’s editorial board members on the Internet the next day, the nationality after my name was given as “Chinese Taipei.” After I sent an e-mail asking them to change my nationality to “Taiwan” it was then changed to “Taiwan, China.”
So I wrote them again, emphasizing that my nationality was just “Taiwan” with no other additions. Finally, they replied, telling me that the issue had been corrected. I checked online again and it had indeed been changed to “Taiwan.”
To my surprise, the next day I received another e-mail saying that I was no longer eligible to be an editorial board member because, according to international regulations, “Chinese Taipei” or “Taiwan, China” are the only acceptable options for my nationality.
Since I refused to accept either, I could no longer serve as a board member.
As I had only been in contact with the editorial board office during the process, I assumed that the other editorial board members were unaware of the matter. As such, when I replied to the office, I also included all the board members to inform them of the matter.
In the e-mail, I said I did not know which international rule states that the nationality of an academic, whether an author, editor or reviewer, shall be decided by others.
I asked the journal not to mix academic affairs with politics.
Moreover, I attached the details of another foreign journal, which has a Taiwanese academic serving as an editorial board member, so they could see that other publications list the nationalities of their board members.
Soon after, a British professor at Cairo University replied to show his support.
The editorial office finally replied half a day later, claiming that there had been a misunderstanding on the nationality issue.
They said the problem was a result of computer settings and that it would be impossible to link my personal information if I did not choose either of the two nationalities provided.
Once again, I patiently replied to both the office and the relevant members, arguing that computers were invented to serve us — not the other way around — and we should not have to adapt to computer functions.
I also repeatedly stressed that the journal’s invitation was not a personal favor, since once I accepted the post I had a responsibility toward the journal and that is not something to be taken lightly.
I asked each board member to spend some time thinking about how they would feel if someone incorrectly labeled their nationality.
At the same time, I told all the board members that this was not the Olympic Games, which is an arena full of politics, and urged them not to bring such political machinations in academia. Unfortunately, it already seems too late for that.
Wu Pei-Ing is a professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics at National Taiwan University.
Translated by Eddy Chang