A synthesis based on ecological meta-analysis papers found that author diversity in terms of author affiliation has little increased and rather country reputation was more powerful than the popularity of the scientific topic and affected the chance of publication.



Ecological assemblages are generally characterized by a few dominant species and numerous others. Such unequal distributions of dominance also emerge in human society, including in scientific communities. Here, based on formal community ecological analyses, we show the temporal trends in the number of scientific publication in the discipline of “ecology.” Based on this, we infer possible factors causing the imbalance of reputation and dominance among countries. We relied on 454 ecological meta-analysis papers published from 1998 to 2014, which sourced over 29,000 original publications. Formal meta-analyses are essential for synthesizing findings from individual studies and are critical for assessing issues and informing policy. We found that, despite the rapid expansion of outlets for ecology papers (analogous to an increase in carrying capacity, in ecological systems), country diversity as determined from first author affiliations (analogous to species diversity) did not increase. Furthermore, a country identity was more powerful than the popularity of the scientific topic and affected the chance of publication in high-profile journals, independent of the potential novelty of findings and arguments of the papers, suggesting possible academic injustice. Consequently, a rank order and hierarchy has been gradually formed among countries. Notably, this country-dominance rank is not only specific to this scientific domain but also universal across different societal situations including sports and economics, further emphasizing that inequality and hierarchical structure exist even in modern human society. Our study demonstrates a need for having robust frameworks to facilitate equality and diversity in the scientific domain in order to better inform society and policy.



Mori AS, Qian S, Tatsumi S. (2015) Academic inequality through the lens of community ecology: a meta-analysis. PeerJ 3:e1457