Gender imbalances in the editorial activities of a selective journal run by academic editors

Tal Seidel Malkinson, Devin B. Terhune, Mathew Kollamkulam, Maria J. Guerreiro,Dani S. Bassett,Tamar R. Makin

PLOS ONE(2023)

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The fairness of decisions made at various stages of the publication process is an important topic in meta-research. Here, based on an analysis of data on the gender of authors, editors and reviewers for 23,876 initial submissions and 7,192 full submissions to the journal eLife, we report on five stages of the publication process. We find that the board of reviewing editors (BRE) is men-dominant (69%) and that authors disproportionately suggest male editors when making an initial submission. We do not find evidence for gender bias when Senior Editors consult Reviewing Editors about initial submissions, but women Reviewing Editors are less engaged in discussions about these submissions than expected by their proportion. We find evidence of gender homophily when Senior Editors assign full submissions to Reviewing Editors (i.e., men are more likely to assign full submissions to other men (77% compared to the base assignment rate to men RE of 70%), and likewise for women (41% compared to women RE base assignment rate of 30%))). This tendency was stronger in more gender-balanced scientific disciplines. However, we do not find evidence for gender bias when authors appeal decisions made by editors to reject submissions. Together, our findings confirm that gender disparities exist along the editorial process and suggest that merely increasing the proportion of women might not be sufficient to eliminate this bias. Measures accounting for women's circumstances and needs (e.g., delaying discussions until all RE are engaged) and raising editorial awareness to women's needs may be essential to increasing gender equity and enhancing academic publication.
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