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Discussions of the not-so-fit: how ableism limits diverse thought and investigative potential in evolutionary biology

Cite this dataset

Klingler, Amanda N. et al. (2022). Discussions of the not-so-fit: how ableism limits diverse thought and investigative potential in evolutionary biology [Dataset]. Dryad.


Evolutionary biology and many of its foundational concepts are grounded in a history of ableism and eugenics. The field has not made a concerted effort to divest our concepts and investigative tools from this fraught history and as a result, an ableist investigative lens has persisted into present-day evolutionary research, limiting the scope of research and harming the ability to communicate and synthesize knowledge about evolutionary processes. This failure to divest from our eugenicist and ableist history has harmed progress in evolutionary biology and allowed principles from evolutionary biology to continue to be weaponized against marginalized communities in the modern-day. To rectify this problem, scholars in evolutionary research must come to terms with how the history of the field has influenced their investigations and work to establish a new framework for defining and investigating concepts, such as selection and fitness.


These data were generated by performing an advanced search in the Web of Science database on 6/1/21. The advanced search criteria included documents of all types, restricted the publication years to 2010-2020, and limited results to only the Web of Science Categories "Ecology" and "Evolutionary Biology.” We searched for works published on the four main drivers of evolution using keywords including: "Genetic Drift," "Genetic Mutation," "Gene Flow," and the topic of selection broken down into two search terms, "Natural Selection" and "Sexual Selection."

After performing the search, we used the Web of Science “Analyze Results” feature to obtain the number of records generated for each search term in each of the publication years of interest. These results were downloaded directly from Web of Science and added to the “AmNat Paper Figure 1 Data. csv” file and used to generate figure 1.

Usage notes

In the data file:

topic: The search term for each of the drivers of evolution explained above
pub_year: The year of publication under consideration 
records: The number of results Web of Science reported as matching the search criteria for the given publication year

These results were plotted in figure 1 using the R code in “Am Nat Figure 1 code. Rmd”