Research Agenda — Scholarly Communications

Jennifer Hootman, Digital Humanities Librarian, University of Kentucky
Lizzy Walker, Metadata and Digital Initiatives Librarian, Wichita State University

It likely comes as no surprise that, according to Data USA, women in 2016 comprised a remarkable 81.7% of the library workforce. Yet, like many other employment sectors there persists a marked gap between women and men not only in the workforce but also in traditional scholarly publishing with the latter greatly underrepresented. This is not due to a lack of interest in scholarly publishing among women. Rather, there are systemic barriers to greater gender equity in scholarly communication.

Through citation and bibliometric analyses, patterns have emerged that indicate an overrepresentation of men in solo-authored articles, co-authored articles, editorial board memberships, and professional listserv communication. Garima Bisaria’s (2018) study of research articles published in DESIDOC Journal of Library & Information Technology from 2008-2017 found that out of a total of 532 authors 401 (75.38%) were men and 131 (24.62%) were women. Further, this pattern along with collaborative publications between two male authors outnumber any other patterns of co-authorship.

In a study of editorial boards from 77 leading information systems journals, Guillaume Cabanac (2012) reports on the demographic data collected from 2,846 “gatekeepers” serving on these boards. The data revealed that male “gatekeepers” eclipsed the number of female “gatekeepers” by 85% to 15% respectively. Similarly, on a listserv dedicated to discussions about scholarly communication, ALA’s SCHOLCOMM, Clayton Hayes and Heidi Elaine Kelly (2017) recently discovered that while men represented a minority of the listserv’s participants (35%), they accounted for over half of the messages sent and two-thirds of replies to existing threads. These same trends and patterns continue to bear out to a greater or lesser degree across disciplines, time, and place.

In addition to the trending gender binary inequities within traditional scholarly publishing and engagement, S.E. Hackney, et. al. (2018) shared provocative findings that warrant deeper consideration and discussion within the library and information science (LIS) profession. Their study of search results from the LISTA database, indexing over 750 LIS journals, uncovered a noticeable silence and avoidance within LIS literature of specific identity-related subjects terms such as “Racism,” “Sex discrimination,” and “LGBT people.” More generalized terms such as “Multicultural” and “Diversity” found greater favor and use.

Future research in scholarly communication may want to consider the following questions:

* What policies, incentives, and structures can be implemented to support greater representation of female-authored publications?

* How can editorial boards recruit more female members?

* How can women be supported to engage more frequently on professional listservs?

* What are the structural barriers to greater female representation in scholarly communication practices?

* How can authors in LIS be encouraged and supported to use more identity-specific subject terms?

* How can authors in LIS be encouraged and supported to specifically address the more political aspects of librarianship and the broader LIS professions?

Full citations for all works cited in this essay can be located on the Bibliography of Scholarship on Women and Gender Studies Librarianship.