Women who are corresponding authors on scientific papers have slightly less chance of having their articles accepted in IOP Publishing journals. That is according to a 30-page report released today by IOP Publishing, which publishes Physics World. The report, which examines the diversity of authors, referees and board members of journals owned by IOP Publishing, also finds that women are invited less than men to peer review papers.
The report has some good news in that journal article submissions from female corresponding authors to IOP Publishing journals as well as the number of women on the editorial boards of its journals are both increasing. Indeed, the report notes that IOP Publishing is “ahead of the global trend for female authorship in physics”, with 22% of papers accepted for publication being from women compared to the global average of 17% in physics.
There were a lot of positives in the report, but we also weren’t surprised that we found some issues, which also tend to be industry-wideKim Eggleton
However, the report finds that there is still “considerable room for improvement”, notably that female researchers who are corresponding authors have a 40% chance of having their articles accepted compared with 43% for men. The report also finds that around 85% of those invited to peer review research papers are men and that women account for just 12% of board members in plasma-physics journals and 15% in mathematics. IOP Publishing journals linked to environmental science have the highest representation of women with 44% on average.
The report also finds that there is an over-representation of scientists from Europe and the US on IOP Publishing editorial boards. US-based scientists make up 28% of board members compared to 8% from China — with authors from the US and Europe being more likely to have their papers accepted for publication than authors from countries such as China or India.
The report outlines 12 recommendations to boost diversity and inclusion in the publisher’s peer-review process, many of which are already being introduced. These include training for peer-review staff on implicit bias; increasing the use of double-blind peer review on journals; and including a gender-neutral title “Mx” on IOP Publishing’s manuscript submission system.
“We wanted to be honest and open about what we found,” says Kim Eggleton, senior managing editor at IOP Publishing. “There were a lot of positives in the report, but we also weren’t surprised that we found some issues, which also tend to be industry-wide. It’s also important to remember that none of this analysis proves any causal relationship, so conclusions must be drawn tentatively.” Eggleton adds that the next steps will be to fully implement the report’s recommendations.
Peer review under the spotlight
Peer review under the spotlight
IOP Publishing’s report follows a similar study by Publons that analyses thousands of articles in the Web of Science database and ScholarOne, a peer-review management platform. It finds that, across many scientific disciplines, researchers in the US carried out peer review on over 22 million papers while submitting 10 million manuscripts between 2013 and 2017. Researchers based in China, however, reviewed just six million papers despite submitting almost nine million manuscripts.