Vital Statistics: Behind the Numbers

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Anyone who is a regular reader of EJIL will know that we publish statistics each year on the submissions we receive as well as on articles accepted and published. We consider this to be part of our responsibility as Journal Editors – to keep a keen eye on the “who and where” of authors submitting to EJIL and to inform our readers and authors accordingly. The tables below tell a clear story, one that is in fact not very different from those of recent years: the majority of our authors are based in European countries; the majority do not speak English as their first language; the majority, though with a smaller gap than in the past, are male authors; and in each case the majority increases for the percentages of accepted and published articles.

Yet, there is more to this story. What we do not see in these neat rows of numbers is the actual process of calculating the figures: the labour involved, the messy or incomplete data we work with on our relatively basic database, as well as difficult questions concerning criteria and categories. For the sake of transparency regarding our statistics, let us take a look at some of the hurdles we cross in drawing up the numbers.

The submissions database we rely on, OUP’s ScholarOne, provides basic, but incomplete, information on submissions received. Submissions list only the corresponding author. We manually count all the authors of multi-authored pieces for accepted and published articles, but the volume of manuscripts we receive each year makes it impossible to count all authors for the submissions category.

Our new age of artificial intelligence presents additional problems. We have found a not insignificant number of clearly AI-generated manuscripts appearing in our submissions database. The authors did not appear to exist or did not respond. We chose to exclude them from our figures as they came from a specific region and would have notably skewed our figures.

Regional origin is a factor that we are interested in but that poses definitional challenges. Academic life, and especially the international law academy, has for many become international: first degree in one country, a second in another, a first job in yet another, and so on. Our OUP database asks an optional question about the submitter’s nationality, but many authors do not respond. For our statistics on regional origin, we instead use the author’s reported academic or professional affiliation. Table 1 is therefore now explicitly called Region of Authors’ Affiliation, rather than Region of Origin as we had in the past. Thus, while the statistic of 0 articles by authors with their primary academic affiliation in South America published in 2023 remains depressing (and we can promise that 2024 will be at least a bit better), the figures are more optimistic if we look in the table of contents of EJIL 2023 for authors who enjoyed at least part of their legal education in South America. 

Similarly, for the linguistic origin we look at the author’s affiliation, not the languages with which they grew up or that they studied. A Chinese author in the UK would therefore be counted as English-speaking, whilst an Australian in Japan would be included as non-English-speaking.

Gender has its own set of problems. ScholarOne offers Male/Female as an optional question, and again, many authors do not respond. We recognize that the binary category of Male/Female no longer responds to many people’s sense of identity and we will be requesting a third category for the gender question on our database.

A final note: just over 90% of the articles published in the 2023 volume of EJIL, accounting for 85% of published pages, were by unsolicited authors. The EJIL Editors-in-Chief commission very few articles – the annual Foreword article and corresponding Afterword pieces, and occasionally Debate Replies or Legal/Illegal articles. For the most part, therefore, we publish articles received through the submission system.

These statistics, with all their flaws and shortcomings, provide a picture of the range of authors submitting to and publishing in EJIL. Be assured that none of this information – gender, regional base or language – plays any part in the peer review process. If you think that tracing trends in submissions to the journal is important, then please also answer the optional questions when you submit your next article – we look forward to reading it.

Table 1: Region of Authors’ Affiliation (in percentages of total) 

 

All Submissions*

Accepted articles**

 

Published articles (often screened and accepted in the previous year)**

 

Europe

53

62

66

Oceania

6

9

10

Africa

2

2

2

Asia

30

13

14

South America

2

2

0

North America

7

12

8

* Number of submissions;   ** Number of authors

Table 2: Linguistic Origin (in percentages of total) 

 

All Submissions*

Accepted articles**

Published articles (often screened and accepted in the previous year)**

English-speaking countries

34

34

35

Non-English-speaking countries

66

66

65

* Number of submissions;  ** Number of authors

 Table 3: Gender (in percentages of total)

 

All Submissions**

Accepted articles**

Published articles (often screened and accepted in the previous year)**

Male

58

62

60

Female

42

38

40

** Number of authors

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