Addressing the underrepresentation of Southern researchers in development journals

September 23, 2022

In a webinar hosted by PEP Research Fellows, a panel of high-level editors discussed the disparity in Southern researchers published in development journals and how editors can increase participation.

More than 200 people from around the world—including researchers, international experts, stakeholders, donors, and policy advisors—joined PEP on September 23 for a panel discussion on “How can development economics journals better include Southern researchers?” 

The webinar was held to address the lack of researchers from the Global South published in development economics journals. The discussions concentrated on challenges faced by Southern researchers when submitting their work to publications and strategies for editors to improve their participation. 

Veronica Amarante and Kibrom Abay, both PEP Research Fellows, moderated the discussion between the panelists: 

  • Christopher Barrett, Editor, Food Policy  
  • Enrica Chiappero-Martinetti, Editor, Journal of Human Development and Capabilities  
  • Marcel Fafchamps, Editor, Economic Development and Cultural Change 
  • Andy McKay, Editor, Review of Development Economics 



Addressing challenges Southern researchers encounter in the development field 

The panelists began with a discussion on the challenges Southern researchers experience when submitting their work for publication in academic journals and the advantages of Southern-authored papers. 

They then discussed ways for Southern researchers to be better supported, how institutions like PEP can provide mentorship through the research and submissions process and other initiatives that have succeeded in improving Southern researchers' participation.


Key takeaways...  

It is difficult for researchers from the Global South to access the academic network of support that could ensure their research and journal submissions are successful.   

“There are fewer submissions [from Southern researchers] to start with. The papers are much more likely to be desk rejected. Even if they do get to the point of review, they're less likely to be published. The environment in which a lot of people work, the availability of support, and the availability of the 'informal network' is often not available to people [in the Global South]." 

Andy McKay 

Researchers from the Global South can contribute valuable insights to the field of development economics, but peer review systems prioritise established approaches to their disadvantage. 

“I have greatly benefited from the interactions with talented young African and Asian colleagues who have terrific ideas, creative insights on how to interpret data that I thought about differently than they did—and they were right. These are all advantages that they have coming into the publication process. But we have a peer review system that is heavily slanted towards those sitting at relatively privileged institutions.” 

Christopher Barrett 

Additionally, individuals affiliated with specific universities may have greater opportunities to publish. 

“If you look at other parts of the world, the North to the global South. But not just geographical, also within the U.S., basically 10 or 20 universities produce virtually all the authors of the top 10 journals.” 

Marcel Fafchamps 


and concrete steps to improve participation  

Along with diversifying editorial boards and holding 'blended' events that bring together northern and southern attendees, journals should foster mentorship and collaboration opportunities between experienced and junior scholars. 

"In my experience, it's been quite helpful to have special issues or symposia in the journal, and this can help, especially if the guest editors are able to create an internal mentorship between more expert and less expert scholars." 

Enrica Chiappero-Martinetti 

Furthermore, researchers in the Global South must receive better support in academic writing. 

"Giving guidance on how to write papers. It sounds like a very basic and fundamental thing, but a lot more handholding is needed.” 

Andy McKay 


This webinar is one of a series of online events taking place to address the underrepresentation of researchers from the Global South in the field of Development Economics. The second webinar will be held on November 7, 12 p.m. UTC and will look at the role of development conference organisers in addressing the imbalance in regional representation and decolonising the field of Development Economics.


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