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The global scientific community has become increasingly diverse over recent decades. At the leadership and decision-making level, however, field such as ecology, evolution and conservation remain largely dominated by male scientists from the Global North. Through this bias, we are missing key perspectives from most biodiversity hotspots and many other benefits related to diverse communities. Addressing the global biodiversity and climate crises in research and practice requires determining opportunities for diverse leadership and how to overcome challenges in tropical ecology and conservation.

In a study of 13 leading journals in ecology, evolution, and conservation, we asked if the increased diversity in global scientific communities is also reflected among top-publishing authors and potential scientific leaders. We investigated the diversity of the 100 top-publishing authors in each journal between 1945 and 2019. In addition, we asked these top-publishing authors whether and how implicit bias affected their publication success and analysed our data set with focus on bias in editorial boards.

Out of 1051 individual top-publishing authors in ecology and conservation, only 11% were women. The United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, and Canada account for more than 75% of top-publishing authors, while countries of the Global South were strikingly under-represented. The number of top-publishing authors who are women and/or are from the Global South is slowly increasing over time, and positively correlates with population size and GDP per capita. In a new analysis of this dataset, we also find strong biases of influential editorial boards in these disciplines. Our surveys with top publishing authors indicate that scientific leadership in ecology is less diverse than its community, but also what could be done to promote diversity, equity and inclusion. The results are discussed with special reference to the tropical science community.

Many opportunities for increasing representation of women and scientists from the Global South are straightforward and therefore should be implemented immediately in scientific best practice, accompanied by measures that promote awareness and further evaluation of inequality in scientific careers. Despite the presentation of our findings, this presentation will provide a brief introduction into this hybrid symposium “Overcoming implicit bias in the tropical science community for better conservation research and practice”. Live-streamed oral presentations and an open final discussion will help to highlight several key challenges and opportunities to promote more inclusive and integrative approaches in tropical biology and conservation.


Diversity, equity, inclusion, publication bias, gender bias, geographic bias, leadership

Bea Maas

Presentation within symposium:

S-7 Overcoming implicit bias in the tropical science community for better conservation research and practice

Overcoming implicit bias in ecology and conservation publishing


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