In recent years it has become increasingly clear that there is gender inequality in research and science. society has undervalued women’s contribution to science. This undervaluation of women in science has occurred throughout history and continues in some forms today.
As a scientific author, it is one’s personal choice to decide which other authors to cite or give credit to in their study. Unfortunately, there is a citation gap, with publications citing male and female researchers at different rates.1 This can be seen as a form of gender inequality. As a result, the influence of women in the scientific community is held back.
The citation gap between male and female authors
A new study published in nature physics journal explores how to gender citation practices in physics.1 This study analyzed more than a million scientific papers published in physics journals over the past 25 years. The analysis was designed to predict citation rates among male and female authors.1
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found a global bias. This bias was that scientific articles written by women are under-cited compared to publications by men.1 In particular, research articles by men are often over-cited by other male authors. Often these authors may be less familiar with the subject.1
In general, it is challenging to determine why the citation gap between male and female researchers persists. Authors of the study published in nature physics suggest that many factors influence citation behavior, including
- personal biases of the author citing other articles,
- the gender of the author citing other articles,
- the publishing magazine and its representation of male and female authors,
- authors’ familiarity with the articles they cite,
- and the length of a paper’s reference list1
Other areas of gender inequality in academia
There is a gap between the number of male and female researchers in the scientific community. Now that this gap has narrowed, the impression is that we will soon have equal representation of men and women in the survey.3
However, a recent study using modeling to predict when the gender gap will close showed that many research specialties will not achieve gender parity this century.3 It is clear that, given that the current number of female authors is low, more needs to be done to promote fairness and equality in science.
There is also one pay gap between men and women in scientific writing. According to a recent study by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, female authors earn about 5-6% less than male authors.2
This gender pay gap persists today, despite there being no evidence that the quality of research by women is lower than that of men.2 Statistics also show that women appear less often in prestigious magazines than men.2
Another form of gender inequality relates to corresponding authors in publications. A corresponding author is responsible for communicating with journals on behalf of their research team.
About 30% of the corresponding authors are female. This low percentage indicates that women in science may have limited opportunities to advance their academic careers.2 In physics and astronomy research, the proportion of corresponding female authors is only 15%.2
Next steps to address gender inequality in research
Women outperform men in undergraduate science courses while being seen as less capable of success.4 This evidence indicates that stereotypes exist.
These stereotypes can erode the recognition of women in science and discourage women from pursuing scientific careers.4 Social change is needed to dispel myths, empower women and highlight women’s achievements in science.
Some researchers have taken the initiative to add citation diversity statements to the end of their manuscripts. Such statements emphasize the importance of diversity in citations.5
As more authors commit to improving gender equality in science, the citation gap between men and women will narrow. However, more advocacy is needed to change institutional policies to increase participation, citations and women’s wages in research.
- Teich EG, Kim JZ, Lynn CW, et al. Citation inequality and gendered citation practices in contemporary physics. Nat Phys 2022 1810. 2021;18(10):1161-1170. doi:10.1038/s41567-022-01770-1
- Data – OECD. It’s time to close the gender gap in research. Published in 2019. Accessed November 5, 2022. https://www.oecd.org/gender/data/women-are-well-represented-in-health-and-long-term-care-professions-but-often-in-jobs-with-poor-working- conditions.htm
- Holman L, Stuart-Fox D, Hauser CE. The gender gap in science: how long before women are equally represented? PLOS Biol. 2018;16(4):e2004956. doi:10.1371/JOURNAL.PBIO.2004956
- Bloodhart B, Balgopal MM, Casper AMA, Sample McMeeking LB, Fischer E V. Outreached yet Undervalued: Undergraduate Women in STEM. PLoS One. 2020;15(6):e0234685. doi:10.1371/JOURNAL.PONE.0234685
- Zurn P, Bassett DS, Rust NC. The Citation Diversity Statement: A Practice of Transparency, a Way of Life. TrendsCogn Sci. 2020;24(9):669-672. doi:10.1016/j.tics.2020.06.009