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


Scientific awards can shape scientific careers, helping to secure jobs and grants, but can also contribute to the lack of diversity at senior levels and in the 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, assessment criteria and potential gender bias. Our results reveal that, overall, few awards foster equitable access and assessment. Although many awards now explicitly allow extensions of the eligibility period for substantial 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 mentioned and 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 a shift would benefit not only those 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.

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Fig. 1: Main characteristics of the included best researcher and best paper awards for early- and mid-career researchers in ecology and evolution.
Fig. 2: Plot of the percentages of the female and male names for included best researcher awards across decades.
Fig. 3: Plot of the percentages of the female and male names for included best paper awards across decades.
Fig. 4: Striving to make early- and mid-career awards more equitable—recommendations for improvement.

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This project was supported by a grant from the European Society for Evolutionary Biology (ESEB) Equal Opportunities Initiative in October 2021.

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Authors and Affiliations



Conceptualization, methodology, data curation, visualization, funding acquisition and preparation of the original draft were undertaken by M.L. Formal analysis and supervision were by S.N. Data curation and investigation were carried out by U.A., B.A., J.R., A.S.-M. and C.E.L. All authors reviewed and edited the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Malgorzata Lagisz.

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Competing interests

M.L. received funding from ESEB. The funder had no role in study design, data collection, data analyses, visualization or interpretation. M.L. is a regular member of ESEB and a Chair of the Equity Diversity and Inclusion Committee of SORTEE. U.A. is a member of ESEB, SSE, AES and SORTEE. B.A. is a SORTEE member. S.N. is a member of ESEB and SORTEE. All remaining authors declare no competing interests.

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Lagisz, M., Aich, U., Amin, B. et al. Little transparency and equity in scientific awards for early- and mid-career researchers in ecology and evolution. Nat Ecol Evol 7, 655–665 (2023).

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