Unveiling Gender Disparities, Racial Inequities, and Conflicts of Interest in Scientific Publishing: Implications for Policy Reform

Project Summary

Scientific editors play a crucial role in shaping academic journals and setting standards, but there is limited understanding of the gender makeup of editors, their publishing practices, and potential conflicts of interest they may face. To address these gaps, we conducted a study using algorithmic tools to infer the gender of 81,000 editors across 1,000 journals and 15 disciplines.

Our analysis revealed a gender gap among editors, with only 14% being women and an even smaller percentage among editors-in-chief. Additionally, we found that career length explains the gender gap among editors, while self-publishing rates were higher among editors-in-chief. Furthermore, we examined the racial and geographical disparities in editorial board composition and the impact on manuscript acceptance delay and citation rates.

Our study encompassed a dataset of 1,000,000 papers published between 2001 and 2020 from six publishers. We discovered that many countries in Asia, Africa, and South America have fewer editors than expected based on their share of authorship, with Black scientists in the United States being the most underrepresented group. Moreover, papers from these regions experienced longer acceptance delays, and Black and Hispanic scientists received significantly fewer citations compared to their White counterparts. In addition to gender and racial disparities, we investigated conflicts of interest among editors and their collaborations with authors. Despite existing policies, we found instances where editors handled papers from their recent collaborators, potentially compromising the integrity of the editorial decision. These findings emphasize the need for policy reforms to address these challenges and ensure fairness in scientific publishing.

Representation of countries among editors.


1. “Non-White scientists appear on fewer editorial boards, spend more time under review, and receive fewer citations” at: C2S2 2023, Copenhagen, Denmark, and ICSSI 2023, Chicago, IL.

2. “Inequality and Conflict of Interest in Academia”, Biology Program Seminar Series at NYU Abu Dhabi.

3. “A Global Perspective of Scientific Publications” at Department of Informatics and Network Systems, University of Pittsburgh.

4. “Gender inequality and self publication are common among academic editors” at: IC2S2 2022, Chicago, IL and ICSSI 2023, Chicago, IL.

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