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We’re an all-women team chosen to edit political science’s flagship journal. Here’s why that matters.

Here’s the ninth in our series on the gender gap in political science.

In a bold move, the American Political Science Association recently appointed us — a team of 12 women — to edit the flagship journal of the discipline of political science, the American Political Science Review (APSR).

Our team members, who are faculty members at leading public and private institutions, collectively have edited or co-edited five journals, published nearly two dozen books, and served on more than 40 editorial boards. We have expertise in American politics, comparative politics, international relations, political theory, public law and policy, racial and ethnic politics, the politics of gender and sexuality and qualitative and quantitative research methods. Last month, we met at the Santa Fe Institute to begin our work as the incoming editors of the APSR.

Our goal in editing the APSR

The APSR is a venerated journal, and rightly so. More than 100 years old, it is read by scholars and students of politics at colleges and universities throughout the world. Our editorship, which begins in June 2020, will provide an opportunity to improve what is already an excellent journal and to make it more representative of the breadth of political science research.

Specifically, we aim to maintain the high quality of the research published in the APSR, while broadening the journal’s readership, relevance, and contributor pool. We will publish research that is well-conceptualized, ethically designed, and well-executed, and that uses a wide range of methods and theoretical approaches to address the timely and timeless questions about power and governance that are central to the study of politics.

The scholarship we publish will include research on world regions and on topics — including race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality — that the discipline has been slow to engage. In addition, it will include research by scholars whose contributions the discipline has been slow to recognize.

Many women, people of color, and scholars of gender and sexuality have felt excluded from the APSR — which impoverishes the discipline as a whole

What initially brought us together as a team was the concern voiced by many of our colleagues — including many women, people of color, scholars of race, gender and sexuality, political theorists and scholars who employ qualitative research methods — who believe that, for decades, the APSR has been unreceptive to them and their work.

Indeed, the authors who have historically published in the APSR have been deeply unrepresentative of the discipline of political science. Consider data on the underrepresentation of women. In the journal’s first three issues this year (February, May and August 2019), women made up only 15 out of 99 authors; 33 of the 46 articles published had no female author.

This was no aberration. Political scientists Dawn Langan Teele and Kathleen Thelen find that, between 2000 and 2015, just 23 percent of articles published in the APSR were written or co-written by women. Michelle Dion, Jane Lawrence Sumner, and Sara McLaughlin Mitchell find that, between 2007 and 2016, 70 percent of APSR articles had only male authors. These figures place the journal below the mean for peer political science journals, and well below any figure that could be considered representative of the gender of political science scholars.

We were struck by the paucity of data on other axes of underrepresentation, including but not limited to race, LGBTQ identification, and nationality. We conducted our own preliminary analysis, which confirmed many of our colleagues’ concerns. For example, by our estimation, in 2017, 88 percent of authors published by the APSR were white, and zero — none at all — were African American.

Such underrepresentation has serious implications, given that publishing in a discipline’s top journal is essential currency in academic advancement. As Teele and Thelen say, “placing one’s work in top-tier journals is important not just to tenure and promotion decisions but also … in the job market for many entry-level positions.”

Yet the problem extends well beyond the career concerns of individual political scientists. Excluding the perspectives and the voices of scholars of color, women, and scholars from other marginalized groups reduces the range of perspectives and insights that contribute to our understanding of the world.

Further, a dearth of these voices often co-exists with a dearth of research about the politics of those same groups. Together, that hampers our ability to understand many of the most pressing problems of our day. Understanding politics requires, for example, examining problems of immigration and migration, gender and sexuality, racist and gender-based violence, ethnic politics, backlash politics, and social movements. And yet, by Teele and Thelan’s count, about 2 percent of articles in the APSR focus on gender or sexuality, and about 4 percent on ethnicity or race. Our own preliminary analyses suggest almost none of the articles in the journal acknowledge LGBTQ people or address LGBTQ politics and policy.

Having an all-women editorial team may help close APSR’s gender gap

Research suggests that, when it comes to the underrepresentation of women scholars, part of the problem may be that women submit to top political science journals at lower rates than men. But Teele and Thelen emphasize the importance of asking why women scholars don’t submit their work. They suggest that part of that “why” is that “female scholars rationally decline to submit their work to journals not seen as hospitable.” A recent survey of 2,440 APSA members confirms this intuition. On average, women view the APSR as less hospitable to their research than men do, even controlling for whether the scholar uses quantitative or qualitative methods.

Research findings in the academic field of medicine suggest that having women serve as lead editors of a journal may affect the likelihood that women will submit their research to the journal. Our appointment as the editorial team serves as a real-world experiment in whether that might be true — and might help narrow the gender publication gap.

We are thrilled to continue the work we began in Santa Fe over the course of our editorial term. We believe a major factor in our successful proposal to edit the APSR was our commitment to develop and implement practices and policies, beginning with comprehensive outreach to prospective authors, to make the journal’s scope more reflective of the wide range of crucial questions our discipline addresses.

Among us are scholars who study topics such as equity, diversity, and representation in politics and policy, and who have worked to increase diversity and equity in our home institutions and in the profession. We believe that diversifying political science will enrich it. We invite our colleagues in the discipline to collaborate with us in this enterprise by sending us their best work. Including a wider variety of perspectives, experiences, voices, and theoretical and methodological approaches will give us a bigger toolbox for understanding the political world.

Previously in this series:

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Sharon Wright Austin is professor of political science at the University of Florida.

Michelle Dion (@michelledion) is associate professor of political science at McMaster University.

Lisa Garcia Bedolla (@garciabedolla) is vice provost for graduate studies, dean of the graduate division, and professor of education at the University of California, Berkeley.

Clarissa Rile Hayward (@ClarissaHayward) is professor of political science at Washington University in St. Louis.

Kelly Kadera (@)kellykadera) is associate professor of political science at the University of Iowa.

Julie Novkov (@NovkovJulie) is professor of political science and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies at the University at Albany, SUNY.

Valeria Sinclair-Chapman is associate professor of political science at Purdue University.

Dara Strolovitch (@DaraZedd) is professor of gender and sexuality studies and politics at Princeton University.

Aili Mari Tripp is Wangari Maathai Professor of political science and gender & women’s studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Denise M. Walsh (@dmwlsh) is associate professor of politics and women, gender and sexuality at University of Virginia.

S. Laurel Weldon (@SLaurelWeldon) is professor of political science at Simon Fraser University.

Elisabeth Jean Wood (@elisabethjwood) is the Crosby Professor of the Human Environment and professor of political science, international and area studies at Yale University.