As a potential indicator of equity in research partnerships, we conducted a bibliometric analysis of author affiliations and author order in publications about sub-Saharan Africa published in the journal Sexually Transmitted Diseases.
We identified articles in the journal Sexually Transmitted Diseases that were about sub-Saharan Africa and published from 2011 to 2020. Medical Subject Heading terms in PubMed were used to identity articles about sub-Saharan Africa. Authors with at least 1 affiliation in sub-Saharan Africa were characterized as sub-Saharan Africa–affiliated authors.
Of the 1439 articles that were published in Sexually Transmitted Diseases from 2011 to 2020, 148 (10%) had a Medical Subject Heading term for a sub-Saharan African country. Of the 604 authors of these 148 articles, 53 (36%) of the first authors, 493 (53%) of the middle authors, and 58 (40%) of the last authors had a sub-Saharan African affiliation; 13 (8.8%) of the articles had no authors with a sub-Saharan African affiliation. The proportions of sub-Saharan African–affiliated authors in first and last authorship positions did not change significantly from 2011–2015 (77 articles) to 2016–2020 (71 articles).
The underrepresentation of Africans in first and last authorship positions suggests power imbalances in global scientific partnerships. Funders, researchers, editors, publishers, and grant and manuscript reviewers each have roles in promoting equity in global health research. This study may serve as an example for journals to establish benchmarks and monitor progress toward a more equitable research environment.