Ask Athena: Maps With Disputed Territories

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Dear Athena,

We have recently seen an uptick in maps that feature disputed territories in our manuscript submissions. We follow the UN Country Designations and maps, and we try not to publish maps with disputed territories, but our journal specialists do not formally check/QC for these at submission. We have been relying on editors and reviewers to point these out and then ask for updated maps. However, as we are running into this more, we find that we miss some this way. I was wondering what other journals do? Do you enforce the use of certain maps or borders? When and how do you check for it? We’re also mindful of the workload of our editorial staff, so any workflow suggestions/examples to do this in an efficient manner are much appreciated.

—Don’t Want to Start an International Incident


Dear International Incident,

To answer this important question, Athena turned to Jessica LaPointe, Managing Copy Editor, American Meteorological Society, for her insights:

“This is an issue we’ve been dealing with for some time at the American Meteorological Society (AMS). In 2018, the AMS Council made the following policy statement:

The American Meteorological Society remains neutral with respect to land-based political borders and names or references to land-based locations in AMS journals. However, no borders or territorial boundaries should be shown over oceans and adjacent seas, gulfs, or other oceanic water bodies on figures in AMS publications (

Currently, we query the author in the proofs, citing the policy above and requesting the author submit new figures, if needed. This does involve some staff resources as it relies on the technical editors noticing the lines in the figures and adding the author query. To save staff time, it could potentially be addressed earlier during peer review or with some kind of disclaimer, as in Springer Nature. How best to handle this is an ongoing question in the AMS publications workflow.”

Thanks for the assist, Jessica! Athena also did a quick search of some of the major publishers’ websites and found many have very similar statements published on their websites (see below for a handful of examples). Journals, societies, and publishers would be wise to have similar policies stated clearly on their websites, no matter the internal process for monitoring adherence to the policies. 

  • Elsevier.   “Elsevier remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.” (
  • Frontiers.   “Frontiers Media SA remains neutral with regards to published territorial descriptions, maps, and author affiliations. All territorial claims are solely those of the authors, and do not necessarily represent those of their affiliated organizations, the publisher, the editors, or reviewers.” (
  • Wiley.   “We ask authors to be cognizant of the fact that the legal status of countries and regions are often disputed and to be mindful of the messages you may be sending to readers when selecting maps that cover such territories. Wiley recognizes that the global community includes diverse opinions on many issues, and we believe the best way to reflect these diverse views is to be neutral on any jurisdictional claims as a publisher and to defer to author and editor discretion. However, please flag any maps showing disputed territories and/or discuss any concerns with your managing editor or primary Wiley contact.” (
  • Springer.   “Political Neutrality Policy: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. We do not take political positions and should not support political parties or endorse political candidates.

We achieve this by being politically neutral (which includes not donating to political parties or endorsing politically-driven boycotts) while respecting the editorial independence of the media in respect of our content. This means that, while editorial content in Springer Nature publications might sometimes take a political position, it should not be seen as a reflection or otherwise of the company’s position. Editorial content is not influenced by the company and vice versa.” (


At Ask Athena, we recognize that there are often a variety of opinions and options when faced with sticky situations, especially those that do not have an obvious answer. We do our best to provide sound guidance but appreciate that others may have a different view. In the spirit of open communication, we would love to hear your thoughts and answers on the questions we cover in the column. Email us at

Answers to Ask Athena questions are a group effort by members of the CSE Education Committee. Special thanks to Jessica LaPointe for her contribution.