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Bibliometrics: Global Gender Disparities in Science


DOI: 10.1038/504211a

Larivière, Vincent et al. “Bibliometrics: Global Gender Disparities in Science.” Nature 504.7479 (2013): 211–213. Print.

p.2: Therefore, we present here a global and cross-disciplinary bibliometric analysis of: first, the relationship between gender and research output (for which our proxy was authorship on published papers); second, the extent of collaboration (for which our proxy was co-authorships); and third, scientific impact of all articles published between 2008 and 2012 and indexed in the Thomson Reuters Web of Science databases (for which our proxy was citations). We analysed 5,483,841 research papers and review articles with 27,329,915 authorships. We assigned gender using data from the US Social Security database, among other sources (see Supplementary Information; go.nature.com/j3otjz). -- Highlighted jun 5, 2014

p.2: Globally, women account for fewer than 30% of fractionalized authorships, whereas men represent slightly more than 70%. Women are similarly underrepresented when it comes to first authorships. For every article with a female first author, there are nearly two (1.93) articles first-authored by men. -- Highlighted jun 5, 2014

p.2: Only nine countries had female dominance in terms of proportion of authorships, and five of these (Macedonia, Sri Lanka, Latvia, Ukraine, and Bosnia and Herzegovina) had more than 1,000 articles in our analysis. In other words, female authorship is more prevalent in countries with lower scientific output. -- Highlighted jun 5, 2014

p.2: US states with more than 1,000 articles with a gender assigned and high male dominance include New Mexico, Mississippi and Wyoming. The US states and Canadian provinces that are closest to achieving gender parity (and have more than 1,000 articles) include Vermont, Rhode Island, Maine, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Quebec. Again, some of these states and provinces are among the lowest ranking in terms of scientific output. -- Highlighted jun 5, 2014

p.3: Our disciplinary results confirmed previous findings and anecdotal knowledge about fields associated with ‘care’. Specialties dominated by women include nursing; midwifery; speech, language and hearing; education; social work and librarianship. Male-dominated disciplines include military sciences, engineering, robotics, aeronautics and astronautics, high-energy physics, mathematics, computer science, philosophy and economics. Although disciplines from the social sciences show a larger proportion of female authors, the humanities are still heavily dominated by men. -- Highlighted jun 5, 2014

p.3: Next we looked at collaboration. We ana- lysed the proportion of papers by gender that are the result of national collaboration, compared with those that result from international collaborations. For the 50 most productive countries in our analysis (accounting for 97% of the total publications), female collaborations are more domestically oriented than are the collaborations of males from the same country. -- Highlighted jun 5, 2014

p.3: There are several limitations to the conclusions that can be drawn from our findings. Foremost among them is that age indisputably has a role — perhaps even the major role — in explaining gender differences in scientific output, collaboration and impact. As is well known, the academic pipeline from junior to senior faculty leaks female scientists, and the senior ranks of science bear the imprint of previous generations’ barriers to the progression of women. Thus it is likely that many of the trends we observed can be explained by the under-representation of women among the elders of science. After all, seniority, authorship position, collaboration and citation are all highly interlinked variables. -- Highlighted jun 5, 2014

p.3: Those of a misogynistic bent might read this study as confirming their view that women’s research is weaker than men’s and there is less of it. Such a simplistic interpretation dismisses the vast implications embedded in these data. Our study lends solid quantitative support to what is intuitively known: barriers to women in science remain widespread worldwide, despite more than a decade of policies aimed at levelling the playing field. UNESCO data show that in 17% of countries an equal number of men and women are scientists. Yet we found a grimmer picture: fewer than 6% of countries represented in the Web of Science come close to achieving gender parity in terms of papers published. -- Highlighted jun 5, 2014

p.3: Unfortunately, behind this global imbalance lie local and historical forces that subtly contribute to the systemic inequalities that hinder women’s access to and progress in science. Any realistic policy to enhance women’s participation in the scientific workforce must take into account the variety of social, cultural, economic and political contexts in which students learn science and scientific work is performed. Each country should carefully identify the micromechanisms that contribute to reproducing the past order. No country can afford to neglect the intellectual contributions of half its population. -- Highlighted jun 5, 2014