‘Glaring lack of diversity’ among public health journal editors

Female scholars grossly under-represented on editorial boards of public health and environmental science publications, says Cambridge-led study

June 21, 2022
Female scientists working on virus vaccines
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Only a third of editors at public health and environmental science journals are women, says a new study highlighting the “glaring lack of diversity” in this area of scholarly publishing.

The study, published in Plos Global Public Health, looked at almost 600 journals to find that 65 per cent of their 27,722 editors were men.

The paper also found that more than three-quarters of editors were affiliated with institutions in high-income countries, such as the US, UK, Australia and Canada.

The dominance of men in high-income countries was particularly acute at the very top of publications, with 67 per cent of editors-in-chief being men from high-income nations, according to the research team led by Kim van Daalen from the University of Cambridge.

Social group bias may explain the massive under-representation of women and researchers from low-income countries, the study suggests, adding that this could “stunt scientific advancement, influence what gets published and hamper career progression in academia”.

Having more international representation on the editorial boards of these publications would help to improve the research undertaken in the field given the global nature of the disciplines, suggests the study, which calls on journals to introduce gender and geographical quotas for editors and expand support for academics who are not native English speakers.

It also recommends that funders require more equitable collaborations within research projects and that journals establish more “clear advancement pipelines for underrepresented groups”.

“Journal editors play a critical role in coordinating and shaping what is accepted as scientific knowledge,” state the authors, who add that they hoped their work would “contribute to the exploration of power dynamics in the creation and dissemination of knowledge”.

The study is the latest to highlight how journals in many academic areas are dominated by men. In February, a Nature Neuroscience paper reported that only 40 per cent of editors in psychology journals are women despite women outnumbering men three to one at postgraduate level.


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