International representation in Neurology journals: no improvement in over a decade

The underrepresentation of authors and editorial members from developing countries has been documented across several specialty journals over the last two decades. Here, authors of a new study published in BMC Medical Research Methodology discuss the underrepresentation of developing countries in neurology journals and the urgent need to implement strategies to support high-quality, locally-driven research.

Click here to read the full study published in BMC Medical Research Methodology.

Biomedical and public health research should reflect the diversity of global health and the impact that social, cultural, and geographical factors can have on local health practice and policy. Until now, no studies have examined the contribution of developing countries to authors, editors or research in high-ranking neurology journals.

The need for research in neurology cannot be understated. Globally, neurological disorders are the leading cause of disability, yet low and middle-income countries bear almost 80% of the burden of neurological disorders. As the population continues to grow, the degree of burden will continue to rise.

Authorship and editorial board representation from developing countries in neurology journals is exceedingly rare.

To assess representation in neurology journals, we conducted a cross-sectional study of all research articles published in 2010 and 2019 in the five highest ranked peer-reviewed neurology journals: The Lancet Neurology, Acta Neuropathologica, Nature Reviews Neurology, Brain, and Annals of Neurology. Using this data, we determined the extent of contributions of authors, editors, and research from developing countries, as well as the degree of international research collaboration between developed and developing countries.

We found that authorship and editorial board representation from developing countries in neurology journals is exceedingly rare, and this has not changed in the past decade. First authorship was attributed to authors from developing countries in only 2% of research articles in 2010 and 3% in 2019. The lack of representation in research extends to the editorial boards of the selected journals, none of which had a board member from a developing country. Unsurprisingly, the primary data of these publications originated largely from developed countries with advanced research facilities, namely the United States, United Kingdom, and Germany.

National and international research bodies are well placed to reduce this disparity.

Tackling underrepresentation in research is no simple feat. Nevertheless, our results highlight that there is an urgent need for strategies to support high-quality locally-driven biomedical research in developing countries. Local researchers in developing countries benefit from exposure to greater research opportunities, education, and training. This is beneficial to developing countries as they are able to direct socially and culturally relevant research that is readily applicable to local healthcare systems.

National and international research bodies are well placed to reduce this disparity through greater representation via international collaborations which strengthen the quality of research in developing countries. By fostering high-quality and culturally relevant research, local healthcare systems are able to readily apply these findings to meet the neurological needs of their population.

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