The Geographical and Institutional Distribution of Ecological Research in the Tropics: The Geography of Tropical Ecology


We reviewed 1333 papers published in Biotropica and the Journal of Tropical Ecology from 1995 to 2004. Only 62 percent of tropical countries were represented in our survey, with 62 percent of the publications based on research conducted in only ten countries. Sixty-two percent of papers had lead authors that were based at institutions outside the country where the research was conducted. Cross-national collaboration was limited, accounting for only 28 percent of papers with multiple authors. To evaluate if our choice of focal journals could have biased our results, we also reviewed 652 papers published in Ecology, Oecologia, Conservation Biology, and Biological Conservation for five randomly selected years from the same time period. While some differences in authorship and the geographic distribution of research existed, the results from these journals generally mirrored patterns observed in the two focal ones—almost 54 percent of publications were based on research conducted in only ten countries, and most studies had lead authors from a developed country. The results of our review suggest that the geographical distribution of research in the tropics is unequal, and that some important regions remain understudied. The results also suggest a need for a greater focus on establishing collaborative relationships with scientists from tropical countries.

Biotropica, (40), 4, pp. 397–404,