As science becomes more international, scientific editorial boards lag behind

December 12, 2018

Center for Latin American Studies and Wildlife Ecology and Conservation faculty Dr. Emilio Bruna, co-authored the article A persistent lack of international representation on editorial boards in environmental biology, published in the journal PLOS Biology.


The scholars comprising journal editorial boards play a critical role in defining the trajectory of knowledge in their field. Nevertheless, studies of editorial board composition remain rare, especially those focusing on journals publishing research in the increasingly globalized fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Using metrics for quantifying the diversity of ecological communities, we quantified international representation on the 1985–2014 editorial boards of 24 environmental biology journals. Over the course of 3 decades, there were 3,827 unique scientists based in 70 countries who served as editors. The size of the editorial community increased over time—the number of editors serving in 2014 was 4-fold greater than in 1985—as did the number of countries in which editors were based. Nevertheless, editors based outside the “Global North” (the group of economically developed countries with high per capita gross domestic product [GDP] that collectively concentrate most global wealth) were extremely rare. Furthermore, 67.18% of all editors were based in either the United States or the United Kingdom. Consequently, geographic diversity—already low in 1985—remained unchanged through 2014. We argue that this limited geographic diversity can detrimentally affect the creativity of scholarship published in journals, the progress and direction of research, the composition of the STEM workforce, and the development of science in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and much of Asia (i.e., the “Global South”).

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