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Original Investigation
March 26, 2020

Association Between Sex Composition and Publication Productivity of Journal Editorial and Professional Society Board Members in Ophthalmology

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Ophthalmology, Penn State College of Medicine, Hershey, Pennsylvania
  • 2Department of Public Health Sciences, Penn State College of Medicine, Hershey, Pennsylvania
JAMA Ophthalmol. 2020;138(5):451-458. doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2020.0164
Key Points

Question  Is the sex composition of ophthalmic journal editorial and professional society boards representative of US ophthalmologists, and does publication productivity vary between the sexes?

Findings  In this study of 1077 journal editorial and professional society board members, 74.0% were men and 26.0% were women; 92.3% of editors-in-chief or presidents were men, and 7.7% were women. When accounting for career length, no difference in publication productivity was identified.

Meaning  The findings suggest that publication productivity is not associated with election to leadership positions on journal editorial and society boards or with sex.


Importance  Because women remain underrepresented in leadership positions in medicine, including ophthalmology, knowledge of sex composition of ophthalmic journal editorial and professional society boards seems warranted.

Objectives  To investigate the sex composition of ophthalmic journal editorial and professional society boards and compare the publication productivity and number of citations of male vs female board members.

Design, Setting, and Participants  In this cross-sectional study, the SCImago Journal Rank indicator was used to identify the 20 highest-ranked ophthalmology journals. Faculty members from each ophthalmic subspecialty were surveyed within a US academic ophthalmology department to identify 15 influential ophthalmology societies. The 2018 board members of each journal and society were identified from the journals’ and societies’ official websites, and the sex of each individual was recorded. Information regarding journals and societies was collected from October 1 to December 31, 2018. The Scopus database was accessed in January 2019 and then used to find each member’s h-index and m-quotient.

Main Outcomes and Measures  The h-index, defined as the highest number of an author’s publications that received at least h number of citations, was calculated for each board member. The m-quotient, which accounts for varying lengths of academic careers, was calculated by dividing the h-index by the number of years since first publication.

Results  Of the 1077 members of ophthalmic journal editorial and society leadership boards, 797 (74.0%) were men and 280 (26.0%) were women. Among the 24 editors in chief of the 20 journals investigated, 23 (95.8%) were male. Thirteen of the 15 professional society presidents (86.7%) were men. Male board members had significantly higher median h-indexes (male vs female journals: 34 [interquartile range {IQR}, 23-47] vs 28 [IQR, 19-40], P < .001; male vs female societies: 27 [IQR, 15-41] vs 17 [IQR, 8-32], P = .006), median publication numbers (male vs female journal board members: 157 [IQR, 88-254] vs 109 [IQR, 66-188], P < .001; male vs female society board members: 109 [IQR, 57-190] vs 58 [IQR, 28-139, P = .001), and median citations (male vs female journal board members: 4027 [IQR, 1897-8005] vs 2871 [IQR, 1344-5852], P < .001; male vs female society board members: 2228 [IQR, 1005-5069] vs 1090 [IQR, 410-2527], P = .003). However, the median m-quotients for male and female board members were comparable (male vs female journal board members: 1.2 [IQR, 0.8-1.6] vs 1.1 [IQR, 0.8-1.5], P = .54; male vs female society board members: 1.0 [IQR, 0.7-1.4] vs 0.9 [IQR, 0.6-1.3], P = .32).

Conclusions and Relevance  The findings suggest that the sex composition on journal editorial and professional society boards in ophthalmology is consistent with the sex composition of ophthalmologists in the US, as reported by the Association of American Colleges, but that editor in chief and society president positions are male dominated despite the apparent equality in academic productivity.

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