Assessment of Regional Diversity of Reviewers in Journals Published in Medicine and Agricultural and Biological Sciences

Thomas Gaston,1 Pippa Smart2

Objective This research investigated regional diversity of reviewers to assess whether there were variations that could be attributed to the journal’s (1) discipline, (2) size, (3) rank, (4) editor in chief (EIC) location, and (5) author location. The hypotheses were that the EIC and the author locations will affect reviewer selection and that lower-ranking journals will look more widely for reviewers.

Design The research used 2016 ScholarOne data for all Wiley-owned journals in medicine (n = 112) and the agricultural and biological sciences (n = 37). The EIC, reviewer, and author locations were determined by current institution, not country of origin. The journals were classified into large (>200 articles published each year), medium (100-200), and small (<100) publications; 132 journals had Impact Factors.

Results In all, 148 EICs, 110,053 reviewers, and 55,732 manuscripts were included in our analysis. The EICs were based in Asia (9 EICs), Europe (70), North America (65), Oceania (4). A correlation was found between EIC and reviewer locations. For each EIC region, the percentage of reviewers from the same region was higher than the overall mean value (Asia, +22%; Europe, +12%; North America, +13%; and Oceania, +4%) (Table). In addition, a preference was noted for reviewers from the same country as the EIC, although this rarely exceeded the preference for USA reviewers. For example, UK EICs invited 22% of their reviewers from individuals based in the UK but 27% from the United States; German EICs, 13% from Germany vs 26% from the United States. No similar correlations were found between the region of the EIC and whether invited reviewers were likely to accept the invitation. In all, 25.7% of authors came from Asia, but only 9.1% of reviewers. The global ratio of authors to reviewers was similar for both disciplines and all journal sizes. There was some evidence of reviewer bias: agreeing to review (54% vs 49%) and recommending acceptance (51% vs 46%) for authors in the same region. No significant correlations were noted between location of reviewer and other factors. Limitations of the study include the low number of Asian and high number of UK and USA editors, which may have led to skewed data. In addition, Wiley is a USA-based publisher with a largely English-language output.

Conclusions The imbalance of author and reviewer location supports previous research. The journal EIC and author location are more influential on reviewer location than the journal profile, suggesting use of the EIC’s networks supported with a “local” review. Reviewers may be more positive if the author is from their region. There is little difference between the disciplines, although agricultural and biological science journals have a more global range of authors and reviewers.

1Wiley, Oxford, UK, tgaston@wiley.com; 2PSP Consulting, Appleton, Oxfordshire, UK

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: Thomas Gaston is employed by Wiley.

Acknowledgments: We thank Sandy Garel and Katy Underhill (Oxford Brookes) for their assistance with data gathering and Kornelia Junge (Wiley) for her assistance with the data analysis.

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