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Conservation hindered by geographical mismatches between capacity and need

Ahimsa Campos Arceiz-Article

New research suggests that geographical mismatches between conservation needs and expertise may hinder global conservation goals.

Experts from the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus (UNMC) and other institutions have examined geographical patterns within the leadership of the conservation science publishing system focusing on the affiliation of journal editors, who serve as gatekeepers and leaders in the scientific process. Their research, ‘Striking underrepresentation of biodiversity-rich regions among editors of conservation journals’ has been published in the scientific journal Biological Conservation.

The top 20 journals in the field of biodiversity and conservation biology were analysed, with the geographical distribution of editorial board members examined and compared against the National Biodiversity Index, a key indicator of national biodiversity values.

1,210 editorial positions were included in the research which revealed that most of the countries with the highest biodiversity had few or no editors representing them at top conservation journals. Indonesia had the highest National Biodiversity Index but only one editor. Many other biodiversity-rich places including Colombia, Ecuador, Madagascar, and most of tropical Asia had no representation at all on the editorial board.

Similarly, China, India, Mexico, and Brazil are all large, biodiverse and populous countries with very few editors at top conservation journals. The United States, Canada and European countries, especially the United Kingdom and Germany, were strongly over-represented on editorial boards.

Dr Ahimsa Campos-Arceiz, from the School of Environmental and Geographical Sciences at the University of Nottinghamled the research and said: “Journal editors decide what science gets published and whose research is highlighted. Our findings show that there is a distinct lack of representation of biodiversity-rich areas, which could have an impact on policy and funding decisions.”

Professor Richard Primack, from Boston University and one of the authors of the study, said “this bias among journal editors mirrors other well-known biases in conservation science. For example, tropical regions are less studied and represented in biodiversity databases compared with less diverse temperate systems; much of research in tropical countries is not conducted by local researchers, most of reviewers for conservation journals are from English-speaking temperate countries such as USA, UK, Australia, and Canada”.

Dr Martine Maron of the University of Queensland, another co-author adds, “The good news is that addressing this bias is relatively easy and could help reducing biases elsewhere in conservation science. Conservation journals could develop policies to recruit editors from biodiversity-rich countries. Increasing geographical inclusion of journal editors would add diversity of ideas and expertise, which can be of great value for conservation science. It would also help develop conservation science leadership and capacity in biodiversity-rich regions, where it is most needed."

– Ends –

More information is available from Dr Ahimsa Campos-Arceiz at The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus,; or Professor Richard Primack at Boston University,; or Dr Martine Maron at the University of Queensland; or Abraham J.Miller-Rushing at the US National Park Service,; or Lindsay Brooke, Media Relations Managers for the Faculty of Science, on or Josephine Dionisappu, PR & Communications Manager at The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus on, +6 (03) 8924 8746.

Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham has 43,000 students and is ‘the nearest Britain has to a truly global university, with a “distinct” approach to internationalisation, which rests on those full-scale campuses in China and Malaysia, as well as a large presence in its home city.’ (Times Good University Guide 2016). It is also one of the most popular universities in the UK among graduate employers and the winner of ‘Outstanding Support for Early Career Researchers’ at the Times Higher Education Awards 2015. It is ranked in the world’s top 75 by the QS World University Rankings 2015/16. More than 97 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is recognised internationally and it is 8th in the UK by research power according to the Research Excellence Framework 2014. It has been voted the world’s greenest campus for four years running, according to Greenmetrics Ranking of World Universities.
Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, its biggest-ever fundraising campaign, is delivering the University’s vision to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future.

Posted on 30th August 2017

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