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Women and 'Global South' missing from list of top-publishing ecologists

Only 11% of top ecology authors are women (Photo: Tima Miroshnichenko/Pexels)
"We need the perspective provided by a diverse group of scientists in order to address the serious environmental problems faced by the world today, like climate change, pollution and the loss of biodiversity"

A recent study published in Conservation Letters co-authored by a James Hutton Institute ecologist has investigated the number of women and the geographic distribution among the 1051 top-publishing authors in 13 leading journals in ecology and conservation, with shocking results: only 11% are women, and countries of the 'Global South' are strikingly under-represented.

This under-representation means that people from these groups are less likely to be represented as officers of scientific societies, editors of journals and research scientists at leading universities and research organisations. Because leaders in the scientific establishment are often selected from the top publishing authors, if a group is under-represented in publishing, it is unlikely to be well represented in leadership positions.

“We suspected that women would be under-represented in our list of top publishing authors as we had earlier analysed figures for one journal, but we were astonished that only 11% were women,” says Professor Robin Pakeman, one of the co-authors of the study and a researcher at the Institute's Ecological Sciences department in Aberdeen.

“Worryingly, there were almost no authors from India, China and other large and biologically diverse countries of the non-English speaking world.

“We need the perspective provided by a diverse group of scientists in order to address the serious environmental problems faced by the world today, like climate change, pollution and the loss of biodiversity. If, for example, people from China, India, Russia and Nigeria are not represented in global scientific fora, we will be less able to address these problems in a truly international fashion.”

While women and scientists from the Global South were under-represented among top authors, there are signs of improvement. Among the older authors, only 3% are women, but 18% of younger top-publishing authors are women. The geographical diversity of authors is also slowly increasing over time. 

The authors of the study make four broad recommendations. First, scientific journals and societies should make special efforts to recruit their leadership and encourage authors from under-represented groups and countries. Second, the scientific establishment needs to move away from using the number of publications and citations as the key evaluation metrics. Third, leading scientists should try to increase the diversity of their collaborators and co-authors. And fourth, academic leaders (and their institutions) should promote and support the value of diversity during the recruitment and evaluation of research personnel.

Paper: Maas, B, Pakeman, RJ, Godet, L, Smith, L, Devictor, V, Primack, R. Women and Global South strikingly underrepresented among top‐publishing ecologists. Conservation Letters. 2021;e12797. https://doi.org/10.1111/conl.12797

More information from: 

Bernardo Rodriguez-Salcedo, Media Manager, James Hutton Institute, Tel: +44 (0)1224 395089 (direct line), +44 (0)344 928 5428 (switchboard) or +44 (0)7791 193918 (mobile).


Printed from /news/women-and-global-south-missing-list-top-publishing-ecologists on 17/06/21 06:56:24 PM

The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.