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Women’s presence in science is not reflected in peer-review authorship or citations

Posted December 12, 2013
Central to evaluating researchers, publication citations reflect gender bias, barrier to women
Lead author gender and citation: papers with female authors in key positions are cited less than those with male authors in key positions, be they papers with one author, or those resulting from national or international collaborations. Numbers reflect average number of relative citations. Credit: Chaoqun Ni – Indiana University
After reviewing the authorship of 5.4 million peer-reviewed articles, University of Montreal information scientist Prof Vincent Larivière and colleagues from UQAM and University of Indiana have established that women are seriously under-represented within the academic publishing system. “Although female students outnumber males, we know that professors are overwhelmingly male and so is both the authorship and citation of research papers. For every article with a female first-author, there are nearly two articles first-authored by men,” Larivière said. “This study is the first to actually quantify this disparity across disciplines and around the world. The problem persists despite a concerted effort to correct it – we cannot address an issue properly until we understand it. And the exclusion of half of the planet’s brains is a very serious problem indeed.” Their findings were published today in Nature.

The researchers retrieved scientific articles published between 2008 and 2012 from the Web of Science database, which includes the authors’ names and affiliations. Some kinds of academic articles that are not generally peer-reviewed or considered as “original contributions to scholarly knowledge” were excluded, such as letters to the editor and book reviews. Then authorship was scored, taking into the account the importance of researcher’s position as senior author, first author, and so forth. Finally, to determine the gender composition of the articles, the researchers compiled lists of names, using sources such as the US Census, and wrote database search formulas (for example, Russian men’s names tend to end with -ov, -ev or –in, women’s with -ova, -eva or –ina.) The researchers were able to assign the gender of 65.2% of the 27 million authorships they analyzed.

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