PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania – As the gender gap in STEM slowly narrows, a new study illustrates just how far modern science has to go to view male and female scientists as equals. You might think that people judge any research project by its findings and methodology, not by its authors. Unfortunately, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania report that scientific papers with female authors receive far less attention than similar studies by male scientists. According to the results, this is especially the case when women are the primary and primary perpetrators.
Researchers analyzed a total of 5,554 articles published in five of the top academic medical journals between 2015 and 2018 for this project. Within this group, 35.6% of the studies had a female principal author and 25.8% had a female principal author.
On average, other researchers cited studies in which a woman was the lead author 36 times. Meanwhile, other studies have referred to reports primarily written by men an average of 54 times. Likewise, the scientific community cited an average of 37 times articles with senior female authors, compared to an average of 51 references for senior male authors. Studies that included a female principal and principal author received the fewest citations on average (33) in other works. Articles written primarily by men, however, received the most references, with an average of 59 references.
“The number of times a peer-reviewed article cited by other researchers is commonly used as a measure of academic recognition, influence, as well as in professional reviews and promotions,” says lead author Paula Chatterjee, MD, MPH, assistant professor of General Internal Medicine at Penn Medicine, in a university outing. “Women academics already face a number of barriers to career advancement, and the disparity in citations only widens the gap between them and their male peers. “
Is the science gap even bigger than it looks?
The research team also notes that a number of included studies appear in specialized journals in the field of internal medicine. This is worth mentioning because internal medicine generally has more female specialists than other clinical specialties. This may suggest that these results, if any, may in fact be sub-sale how drastic the gap is between male and female quotes.
“Gender disparities in quotes are just one way to look at inequalities in academic medicine. Our results highlight that the disparities stem in part from inequalities in the recognition and amplification of research. This imbalance will not be resolved by hiring and mentoring more women alone, ”concludes lead author Rachel Werner, MD, PhD, executive director of the Leonard Davis Institute for Health Economics. “We also need to ensure that women already in academic medicine are also valued and promoted for their contributions and successes. From journals publishing this work to academic institutions promoting articles once published, everyone should be involved in bridging this gender gap.
The team published its results in the review JAMA network open.