, Volume 113, Issue 2, pp 1113–1127 | Cite as

Language and socioeconomics predict geographic variation in peer review outcomes at an ecology journal

  • C. Sean Burns
  • Charles W. Fox


Papers submitted by scientists located in western nations generally fare better in the peer review process than do papers submitted by scientists from elsewhere. This paper examines geographic variation in peer review outcomes (whether a manuscript is sent for review, review scores obtained, and final decisions by editors) for 3529 submissions over a 4.5 year period at the journal Functional Ecology. In particular, we test whether geographic variation in language and socioeconomics are adequate to explain most or are all of this variation. There was no relationship between the geographic regions of handling editors and the decisions to send papers for review or invite revision, but there was substantial variation among author geographic locations; generally papers from first authors located in Oceania, the United States, and the United Kingdom fared better, and papers from first authors located in Africa, Asia, and Latin America fared worst. Language and the Human Development Index (HDI) explained the geographic variation in the proportion of papers sent for review, but socioeconomics alone (HDI) was the best predictor of mean review scores obtained by papers and whether authors were invited to submit a revision. Though we cannot exclude a role for editor and reviewer biases against authors based on their geographic location, variation in socioeconomics and language explain much of the variation in manuscript editorial and peer review outcomes among authors from different regions of the world.


Peer review Language bias Geographic bias Socioeconomics Human development index 

Mathematics Subject Classification


JEL Classification

C12 C13 C14 



We thank the British Ecological Society (BES), owners of the journal Functional Ecology, for permitting us to use their peer review database for this project. Brandi Frisby provided comments on an earlier draft of this paper. This work was reviewed and approved by the Internal Review Board at the University of Kentucky, IRB 14-0570-P4S.


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Copyright information

© Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, Hungary 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Information ScienceUniversity of KentuckyLexingtonUSA
  2. 2.Department of EntomologyUniversity of KentuckyLexingtonUSA

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