Thursday , April 15 2021

Lack of diversity in science

The study examined the gender and affiliation of 1,051 leading authors, those scientists who received the most publications in 13 leading journals on ecology and nature protection. The results show that women and the global South are barely represented on this list. “The overall list of the best authors included only 11% of women, while 75% of the articles covered only five countries in the Global North,” said Bea Maas, lead author of the University of Vienna. “This huge imbalance in scientific authorship is extremely worrying, especially in the field of ecology and nature protection, where different perspectives are needed to address global climate and environmental issues,” Maas said.

Analyzed trends over time have shown that the proportion of leading women authors increased from 3% to 18% between 1945 and 2019, while the Global South recently represented 25% of leading authors. “The current share of women and scientists from the Global South among the most authoritative authors is still far from divided in society or academia, and shows the obvious need to catch up with the promotion of scientific diversity,” says Maas. “Hardly any of the authors from India, China and other densely populated regions that are important for global preservation and sustainability appear on the list, while many other countries are not represented at all,” Maas said.

According to the authors of the study, the lack of representation of women and the global South affects not only the highest authorial qualities in the field of ecology, but also scientific guidance. “In many scientific fields, publications and especially authorship determine career development and the distribution of management positions,” explains Maas.

The study highlights the link between lead authorship and research leadership and provides four specific recommendations for promoting scientific diversity:

First, scientific journals and societies must make a special effort to promote diversity and engage managers. Second, the authors recommend assessing the trajectory of a scientific career on the basis of a variety of competencies that go beyond publications. Third and fourth, the study authors advocate for structural change to promote parenting time and diversity among staff, co-authors, and co-authors to promote and protect the integrity of the scientific community. Other recommendations, specifically aimed at the research author and the community level, serve, according to Maas, “to improve best scientific practices, especially in actively promoting diverse and global perspectives on ecology and conservation.”


Publication in Saving letters: Bea Maas, Robin J. Packeman, Laurent Gode, Linnaeus Smith, Vincent Devictor and Richard Primak (2021). Women and the global South are strikingly underrepresented among leading environmentalists. Letters of preservation, in the press DOI: 10.1111 / conl.12797

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