Vital Statistics

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What’s in a number? Or better, what’s in a set of numbers? As many of our readers know, we draw up the EJIL Vital Statistics each year in order to track any changes, shifts and developments in the who’s who of EJIL authors. Who submits to the journal? Who is accepted, and who gets published? Are we managing to get the right balance between the publication of unsolicited manuscripts and symposia? What other factors do we need to analyse? We look at the geographic and linguistic distribution of our potential and published authors as well as their gender balance each year. In addition, we occasionally examine other factors that provide us with important information about our ‘pool’ of authors. For instance, in our 2020 Vital Statistics (vol. 31:1), we looked at the percentage of authors publishing for the first time in EJIL compared with authors repeatedly publishing in our pages. Happily, we found that the vast majority of authors had published one article in EJIL during the previous nine years – a finding which is very much in line with our aim to promote a diversity of scholars.

In some respects, this year’s Vital Statistics proved to be quite predictable, showing that we have continued on a similar path to that of previous years. However, there were also some deviations, providing us as Editors with serious food for thought.

In tracking the geographical distribution of authors, we use the following categories: Europe without the United Kingdom, the United Kingdom, Asia, Oceania, Africa, North America and South America. Table 1 shows that, as one might indeed expect, the majority of manuscripts received, accepted and published in the journal come from European countries and the United Kingdom. We continue to see a growing number of submissions from Asian countries, though this is yet to be reflected in the number of accepted or published articles. The considerably higher percentage of accepted and published articles by North American authors, particularly compared with the percentage of manuscripts received from that region, can partly be explained by the fact that we published a symposium in our 2020 volume with almost exclusively North American authors as well as a number of co-authored articles by North American authors. The figures for Oceania, Africa and South America remain constant regarding submissions, acceptances and published articles. Hopefully, these will increase in years to come.

Table 1: Regional Origin of EJIL authors 2020 (in percentages of total)

 

All Submissions

Accepted articles

Published articles

Europe

33

42

39

United Kingdom

14

13

16

Oceania

9

8

4

Africa

2

0

0

Asia

28

13

11

South America

5

3

2

North America

9

21

28

Whilst Table 2 shows that a much higher percentage of manuscripts are received from non-English-speaking countries, the percentage drops considerably for the categories of accepted and published articles by authors from those countries. However, the good news is that these percentage gaps are slimmer than in previous years. For 2019, 46% of accepted articles were by authors from non-English-speaking countries and for published authors it was 45%, indicating percentage jumps in 2020 of 12% and 7% respectively for these categories. Overall, in 2020, we published more articles by authors in non-English-speaking countries than in English-speaking countries. This should address concerns about native-speaker-surroundings biases in publishing.

Table 2. Linguistic Origin of EJIL authors 2020 (in percentages of total)

 

All Submissions

Accepted articles

Published articles

English-speaking countries

33

42

48

Non-English-speaking countries

67

58

52

And now, here comes the bad news. We have not done so well in maintaining, much less improving, the gender balance of authors in our pages, as Table 3 illustrates. Whilst the percentage of submissions by male and female authors remained unchanged in 2020, they dropped for accepted and published articles. So, does the problem lie in our selection of articles? Perhaps, to a small extent, although the EJIL peer-review process is double-blinded, which allows no room for positive or negative discrimination in relation to female authors. Instead, where might the problem lie? Our analysis of the 2020 accepted and published manuscripts points more clearly to a gender imbalance in the authors contributing to our symposia, some of which are organized by Editorial Board members and others that are proposed by external organizers. Thirty-eight authors contributed to symposia or other commissioned articles (including the Foreword and Afterword articles and EJIL: Debate! replies), and of these 73% were male authors! From now on, we will be paying much closer attention to the symposium proposals that reach our mailbox, with a view to requiring that symposium organizers address any unjustified gender imbalances in the table of contents. In addition, we invite readers and authors to take note of our Editorial in this issue on the impact of the Covid pandemic on scholars with care responsibilities. Attention needs to be paid and action taken to alleviate the effects of the pandemic on academics who have had serious restrictions on their time and energy for scholarly research due to child and parental care duties.

Table 3. Gender of EJIL authors 2020 (in percentages of total)

 

All Submissions

Accepted articles

Published articles

Male

65

78

69

Female

35

22

31

Finally, we are staying close to our ideal ratio of 1:2 in the distribution between solicited and unsolicited articles. That boundary, however, is increasingly hard to draw, as we will elaborate in a subsequent editorial.

Let us close by inviting our readers to engage with these vital statistics and with us: in our 31-4 issue we introduced a Letters to the Editors rubric. We would be very happy to hear from you.

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