Patterns of authorship in ecology and evolution: First, last, and corresponding authorship vary with gender and geography

Charles W. Fox, Josiah P. Ritchey, C. E.Timothy Paine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


The position of an author on the byline of a paper affects the inferences readers make about their contributions to the research. We examine gender differences in authorship in the ecology literature using two datasets: submissions to six journals between 2010 and 2015 (regardless of whether they were accepted), and manuscripts published by 151 journals between 2009 and 2015. Women were less likely to be last (i.e., “senior”) authors (averaging ~23% across journals, years, and datasets) and sole authors (~24%), but more likely to be first author (~38%), relative to their overall frequency of authorship (~31%). However, the proportion of women in all authorship roles, except sole authorship, has increased year-on-year. Women were less likely to be authors on papers with male last authors, and all-male papers were more abundant than expected given the overall gender ratio. Women were equally well represented on papers published in higher versus lower impact factor journals at all authorship positions. Female first authors were less likely to serve as corresponding author of their papers; this difference increased with the degree of gender inequality in the author's home country, but did not depend on the gender of the last author. First authors from non-English-speaking countries were less likely to serve as corresponding author of their papers, especially if the last author was from an English-speaking country. That women more often delegate corresponding authorship to one of their coauthors may increase the likelihood that readers undervalue their role in the research by shifting credit for their contributions to coauthors. We suggest that author contribution statements be more universally adopted and that these statements declare how and/or why the corresponding author was selected for this role.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11492-11507
Number of pages16
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number23
StatePublished - Dec 2018

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. Ilona Kater assisted with genderizing the dataset. Emilie Aimé, Adan Deeb, Allyssa Kilanowski, Wil Licht, Jennifer Meyer, Sabine Both, and Emilio Bruna provided helpful comments on earlier drafts of this manuscript. This work was approved by the University of Kentucky's Institutional Review Board (IRB 15–0890). CWF is Executive Editor at Functional Ecology and CETP is an Associate Editor at Functional Ecology and at Biotropica; both of these journals were examined in this study.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • authorship
  • gender bias
  • gender discrimination
  • women in science

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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