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The influence of gender in the academic publishing process

Gender in academic publishingAre women fairly represented as authors, editors and peer reviewers in academic publishing? Dr Dina Balabanova and Jamie Lundine discussed the growing awareness of the under-representation of women in these roles, and their research in this field, in a blog post for BMC.

Dr Balabanova explained some of the drivers behind their research: “It struck me that we know very little about why women are less represented as authors, editors and journal editorials board members. There is even less evidence on these experiences in countries and regions where women are particularly under-represented in higher education and academia.” Conversations with colleagues and peers revealed a less-than-positive experience of women academics working in global health, particularly in publishing and in 2017 Dr Balabanova initiated dialogue with BMC on the topic. Lundine explained why she was interested in getting involved in the project, which began with analysis of author gender data in two BMC journals: “The more I learned, the more I came to appreciate that academic publishing is an important channel for influencing public health and international development policies, that can ultimately lead to improved health and well-being.”

The team’s recent research consisted of a qualitative assessment of the experiences of 15 senior editors at public health journals, as well as a literature review of the topic, both of which informed a consensus workshop involving 17 specialists with publishing and gender and diversity expertise. Their research indicates that systemic gender inequity exists in academic publishing. As a next step, they plan to develop practical guidance for editors and publishers that will expand on current guidelines, which focus on underreporting of gender in study design, implementation and reporting, to include gender balance of peer reviewers, editors and authors.

Balabanova and Lundine are actively engaging with publishers and discussed gender and diversity in research at a workshop with BMC and Springer Open Editors last month. They would like to see editors, journals and publishers actively tackle gender inequity, for example by developing gender equity plans that focus on authors of invited content, peer reviewers and editors and by implementing unconscious bias training for editors, peer reviewers and authors.


Summary by Sophie Boyd, MSc Science Communication student at the University of Manchester. Contact Sophie at


With thanks to our sponsors, Aspire Scientific Ltd and NetworkPharma Ltd.

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