Reducing publication delay to improve the efficiency and impact of conservation science

Alec P. Christie, Thomas B. White, Philip A. Martin, Silviu O. Petrovan, Andrew J. Bladon, Andrew E. Bowkett, Nick A. Littlewood, Anne-Christine Mupepele, Ricardo Rocha, Katherine A. Sainsbury, Rebecca K. Smith, Nigel G. Taylor, William J. Sutherland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
27 Downloads (Pure)


Evidence-based decision-making is most effective with comprehensive access to scientific studies. If studies face significant publication delays or barriers, the useful information they contain may not reach decision-makers in a timely manner. This represents a potential problem for mission-oriented disciplines where access to the latest data is required to ensure effective actions are undertaken. We sought to analyse the severity of publication delay in conservation science—a field that requires urgent action to prevent the loss of biodiversity. We used the Conservation Evidence database to assess the length of publication delay (time from finishing data collection to publication) in the literature that tests the effectiveness of conservation interventions. From 7,447 peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed studies of conservation interventions published over eleven decades, we find that the raw mean publication delay was 3.2 years (±2SD = 0.1) and varied by conservation subject. A significantly shorter delay was observed for studies focused on Bee Conservation, Sustainable Aquaculture, Management of Captive Animals, Amphibian Conservation, and Control of Freshwater Invasive Species (Estimated Marginal Mean range from 1.4–1.9 years). Publication delay was significantly shorter for the non-peer-reviewed literature (Estimated Marginal Mean delay of 1.9 years ± 0.2) compared to the peer-reviewed literature (i.e., scientific journals; Estimated Marginal Mean delay of 3.0 years ± 0.1). We found publication delay has significantly increased over time (an increase of ~1.2 years from 1912 (1.4 years ± 0.2) to 2020 (2.6 years ± 0.1)), but this change was much weaker and non-significant post-2000s; we found no evidence for any decline. There was also no evidence that studies on more threatened species were subject to a shorter delay—indeed, the contrary was true for mammals, and to a lesser extent for birds. We suggest a range of possible ways in which scientists, funders, publishers, and practitioners can work together to reduce delays at each stage of the publication process.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12245
Early online date12 Oct 2021
Publication statusFirst published - 12 Oct 2021


  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Medicine
  • General Neuroscience
  • Conservation science
  • Publication speed
  • Science-policy gap
  • Conservation evidence
  • Evidence-based
  • Journal delay
  • Science-practice gap


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