This is a reply to the newsletter special report Are we reaching gender parity among Palaeontology authors?
As Chair of and on behalf of the Editorial Board (Mark Purnell, Nicholas Butterfield and Susannah Maidment) we thank Rachel Warnock and her co-authors for this study on gender balance in authorship in our flagship journal Palaeontology. The data generated are of interest and raise a number of important issues on which we, as the Editorial Board, and the wider community need to reflect.
Prior to the initiation of the study we had recognized that the Editorial Board lacked gender balance, with four male editors and a male Editor-in-Chief. We have taken steps to start to redress this with the appointment of Susannah Maidment to the Editorial Board. With respect to handling editors, 28% of our handling editors are female and we acknowledge this is a long way short of gender parity. Currently 80% of female members of the Association are under the age of 45 and 56% are under the age of 35. It is likely that the experience required to act as a handling editor falls at some point within these two age ranges; this makes direct comparisons about representation difficult, but the editorial board will actively monitor gender balance and take action to ensure we move in the right direction.
New and existing handling editors will be informed of the need to garner reviewers from a broad cross-section of our community to reflect on the issues highlighted by Warnock and colleagues in their article. On behalf of all our hard-working handling editors, I would like to encourage everyone in our community to actively engage in the peer review process. If you are invited to review but are unable to provide one it would greatly assist us if you could let us know in a timely manner, and we would always warmly welcome recommendations of potential reviewers. In making recommendations, if your suggestions include only men, please consider whether this reflects the diversity of the field.
Quantitative data, such as those presented by Warnock and colleagues, are an important first step towards understanding aspects of diversity and how these have changed through time, and they provide a benchmark for future analyses. However, these data should not be viewed in isolation. The Association and the journal have changed markedly since their inception, shifting from a UK-focused group to a truly international association and brace of publications. Likewise, how we as a community undertake our research has radically changed. Many more papers are now the result of collaborations between networks of researchers, many of which are international in scope. How we as individuals manage and develop our networks in the coming years has the capacity to shape our community and influence gender balance in publications.
Our journal Palaeontology is recognized as a field-leading publication currently ranked third in the ISI Journal Citation Reports subject category. We are committed to maintaining this excellence and will do all that we can to drive up the quality and scientific impact of the papers we publish. We also recognize that palaeontology, as a journal and a discipline, works best as a broad and diverse community. We remain open and committed to all aspects of diversity and welcome submissions with authorship that reflect this. To reflect the issues raised by Warnock and colleagues we will undertake the following actions as first steps towards addressing the gender imbalance in publishing:
- We will continue to improve the degree to which our pool of handling editors represents the community. Disciplinary balance across handling editors must be maintained, but by asking women in the first instance to replace our retiring editors, we can make progress towards improved gender balance. Where appropriate, we will look to support early career academics and to further internationalize our pool of handling editors.
- We will require all handling editors to request reviews from at least one female reviewer, unless an appropriate female reviewer cannot be found.
If you are interested in submitting your work to either Palaeontology or Papers in Palaeontology please consult the guidelines for submission which can be found at <https://www.palass.org/publications/publishing-palass-journals>. If you are unsure if your manuscript is within scope of either journal, we are happy to offer advice.