Ladies, gentlemen, and scientific publication at the Royal Society, 1945-1990

Camilla Mork Rostvik* (Corresponding Author), Aileen Fyfe

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
7 Downloads (Pure)


This paper extends the scholarship on gender and scientific authorship by exploring women’s involvement in editorial decision-making. Prior to 1945, women scientists could submit their work to the journals of the Royal Society, but they were excluded from all editorial and evaluation roles: such gate-keeping roles were reserved for Fellows of the Society. We draw upon the Society’s archive to examine the experiences of female authors, referees, and communicators in the period after women were admitted to the Fellowship. We investigate the involvement of women in both anonymous roles (e.g. as referees), and in publicly-visible positions of editorial responsibility (e.g. as communicators, and committee chairs). We reveal that women were better represented in both types of roles in the 1950s than in the 1970s and 1980s. These findings are pertinent to current debates about bias in the peer-review system, and the gendering of academic reward and recognition structures.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-40
Number of pages40
JournalOpen Library of Humanities
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jun 2018

Bibliographical note

The research for this article was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, grant AH/K001841, as part of the project ‘Publishing the Philosophical Transactions: The Economic, Social and Cultural History of a Learned Journal, 1665–2015’. See:

Many thanks for input and comments from Royal Society archivist Keith Moore, and from our colleagues Dr Noah Moxham and Dr Julie McDougall-Waters. We also thank all our interviewees and sources, both named and anonymous, for their willingness to talk to us and for permission to use their material. We have particularly benefited from conversations with the current Head of Publishing Dr Stuart Taylor, the Publisher Phil Hurst, the Head of Publishing Operations Charles Lusty, and the former Diversity Manager Lenna Cumberbatch. We thank the Royal Society for use of its archives. We also thank our two referees, whose identities and gender we do not know, but who helped us streamline our argument.


  • Royal Society
  • Gender
  • Peer review
  • Editorial practices
  • Higher education
  • History of Science


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