Little transparency and equity in scientific awards for early and mid-career researchers in ecology and evolution

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Malgorzata Lagisz, Upama Aich, Bawan Amin, Joanna Rutkowska, Ada Sánchez-Mercado , Carlos Esteban Lara, Shinichi Nakagawa


Scientific awards can shape scientific careers, helping secure jobs and grants. Awards also have a potential to reinforce the “Matthew Effect” and the quest for “novelty” in science when eligibility and assessment criteria give preference to nominees with traditional careers and to “excellent” research. As such, recognition awards for early and mid-career researchers can contribute to the lack of intersectional diversity at the senior levels and in elite networks of scientists. To assess the status quo and historical trends, we evaluated “best researcher” awards and “best paper” early and mid-career awards from broad-scope international journals and societies in ecology and evolution. Specifically, we collated information on eligibility rules and assessment criteria and quantified historical gender biases in the lists of past winners. Our results reveal that, overall, few awards foster equitable access and assessment. Although many awards now explicitly allow extensions of the eligibility period for significant career interruptions, there is a general lack of transparency in terms of assessment and consideration of other differences in access to opportunities and resources among junior researchers. Strikingly, Open Science practices were valued in only one award. By highlighting instances of desirable award characteristics, we hope this work will nudge award committees to shift from simple but non-equitable award policies and practices towards strategies enhancing inclusivity and diversity. Such shift would benefit not only these at the early and mid-career stages, but the whole research community. It is also an untapped opportunity to reward Open Science practices, promoting transparent and robust science.



Biology, Life Sciences


Equity, open science, research awards, research policy


Published: 2022-09-16 17:30


CC-By Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International

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Conflict of interest statement:
ML received funding from the European Society for Evolutionary Biology (ESEB). The funder had no role in study design, data collection, data analyses, visualisation, or interpretation. ML is a regular member of ESEB and a Chair of the Equity Diversity and Inclusion Committee of the Society for Open Reproducible and Transparent Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (SORTEE). UA is a member of ESEB, SSE, AES and SORTEE. BA is a SORTEE member. SN is a member of ESEB and SORTEE. Apart of this, all authors declare no conflict of interest.