Gender differences in peer review outcomes and manuscript impact at six journals of ecology and evolution

Charles W. Fox, C. E.Timothy Paine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

94 Scopus citations


The productivity and performance of men is generally rated more highly than that of women in controlled experiments, suggesting conscious or unconscious gender biases in assessment. The degree to which editors and reviewers of scholarly journals exhibit gender biases that influence outcomes of the peer-review process remains uncertain due to substantial variation among studies. We test whether gender predicts the outcomes of editorial and peer review for >23,000 research manuscripts submitted to six journals in ecology and evolution from 2010 to 2015. Papers with female and male first authors were equally likely to be sent for peer review. However, papers with female first authors obtained, on average, slightly worse peer-review scores and were more likely to be rejected after peer review, though the difference varied among journals. These gender differences appear to be partly due to differences in authorial roles. Papers for the which the first author deferred corresponding authorship to a coauthor (which women do more often than men) obtained significantly worse peer-review scores and were less likely to get positive editorial decisions. Gender differences in corresponding authorship explained some of the gender differences in peer-review scores and positive editorial decisions. In contrast to these observations on submitted manuscripts, gender differences in peer-review outcomes were observed in a survey of >12,000 published manuscripts; women reported similar rates of rejection (from a prior journal) before eventual publication. After publication, papers with female authors were cited less often than those with male authors, though the differences are very small (~2%). Our data do not allow us to test hypotheses about mechanisms underlying the gender discrepancies we observed, but strongly support the conclusion that papers authored by women have lower acceptance rates and are less well cited than are papers authored by men in ecology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3599-3619
Number of pages21
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The British Ecological Society and the Society for the Study of Evolution provided permission to access their databases for this analysis and provided funding for this project. Emilie Aimé, Christopher Grieves, Kate Harrison, Simon Hoggart, Jennifer Meyer, Erika Newton, Alice Plane, James Ross, and Leila Walker extracted the manuscript pdfs that were used to develop the author database for the British Ecological Society journals. Josiah Ritchey and Ilona Kater assisted with genderizing the dataset. Adan Deeb, Allyssa Kilanowski, and Josiah Ritchey provided helpful comments on earlier drafts of this manuscript. This work was approved in part (peer review study) by the University of Kentucky's Institutional Review Board (IRB 15–0890) and in part (author survey) by the University of Stirling. C. W. Fox is Executive Editor at Functional Ecology, and C. E. T. Paine is Associate Editor at Functional Ecology and at Biotropica; both of these journals were examined in this study.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • bias
  • citations
  • discrimination
  • gender
  • peer review
  • scholarly publishing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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