25 Mar, 13 | by Iain Brassington
So there’s this letter published in the Journal of Bioethical Inquiry that moots the idea that the top biomedical ethics journals might be institutionally racist. In it, Subrata Chattopadhyay, Catherine Myser and Raymond De Vries point out that the editorial boards of a good number of journals are dominated by members who are located in the global North – countries officially listed as being high or very high on the development index, with only 1.3% drawn from countries classed as least developed.
Developing World Bioethics has the highest proportion of its editorial board located in the least-developed nations; but even there, the figure is only just over 11%. On the face of it, this doesn’t look too good, especially given the proportion of the world’s population in general that lives in the poorest countries. The JME, by comparison, draws 100% of its editorial board members from people located in highly and very-highly developed nations.
Still: this isn’t likely to be the whole story. Udo Schucklenk – a founding editor of DWB, of course – takes issue with the letter on a number of grounds. For one thing, he he suggests that Chattopadhyay et al might be performing a sleight of hand with their metrics; by lumping together countries ranked as high and very high on the development index, they’re lumping together the UK, Germany, and the US with Iran, Malaysia, and Jamaica. Neither Iran nor Jamaica is a classic basket-case economy; but, still, “high” and “very high” development covers a vast range of income levels. Treating all these countries in the same way obscures that there’s a huge range of locations from which editorial staff may be drawn.
I’ll come back to this in a moment. more…