Research Article: Authors and editors assort on gender and geography in high-rank ecological publications

Date Published: February 8, 2018

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Kezia R. Manlove, Rebecca M. Belou, Sergi Lozano.


Peer-reviewed publication volume and caliber are widely-recognized proxies for academic merit, and a strong publication record is essential for academic success and advancement. However, recent work suggests that publication productivity for particular author groups may also be determined in part by implicit biases lurking in the publication pipeline. Here, we explore patterns of gender, geography, and institutional rank among authors, editorial board members, and handling editors in high-impact ecological publications during 2015 and 2016. A higher proportion of lead authors had female first names (33.9%) than editorial board members (28.9%), and the proportion of female first names among handling editors was even lower (21.1%). Female editors disproportionately edited publications with female lead authors (40.3% of publications with female lead authors were handled by female editors, though female editors handled only 34.4% of all studied publications). Additionally, ecological authors and editors were overwhelmingly from countries in the G8, and high-ranking academic institutions accounted for a large portion of both the published work, and its editorship. Editors and lead authors with female names were typically affiliated with higher-ranking institutions than their male peers. This description of author and editor features provides a baseline for benchmarking future trends in the ecological publishing culture.

Partial Text

Mounting evidence shows that implicit biases structure academic performance metrics [1–4] and institutional hiring practices [5]. These biases may also operate along the peer-review pipeline to inadvertently constrain the diversity of perspectives represented in the peer-reviewed literature. The gate-keeping role of academic journal editors makes them uniquely positioned to advance minority perspectives. Editors and editorial board members are likely subject to the same implicit biases that work against women and geographic minorities in other settings [6]. However, the role that implicit bias could play in the publication pipeline has not been extensively explored in the ecological literature.

Maintaining diverse research perspectives is important for ecology and evolution, domains where geographic context and individual experience could feasibly shape both research questions and measured responses. In order to enter the accepted ecological canon, diverse perspectives should be represented in high-impact publications. However, publication hinges not only on the work’s merit, but also on a peer review structure potentially subject to implicit biases that systematically undervalue research produced by certain author groups. We analyzed editor and lead author data from 10 highly respected ecological journals, and found consistent patterns between lead author and editor traits, including gender, institutional ranking, and national economic status.




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