Women Credited Less in Research

Female Researchers Move Less to Other Countries

Research is mostly a collaborative work of a group of men and women. But when it comes to recognition or authorship, women are ignored most of the time. They are less likely to be named as authors on articles or as inventors on patents than are their male team mates, despite doing the same amount of work, according to an analysis of how research contributions are recognized.

This is partly because women’s contributions to research are often not known, not appreciated or ignored”, say the authors who published the analysis in Nature. Though the study focused on women, the authors say they saw similar patterns for people from other groups that are marginalized in science.


The authors came up with well-documented gender-based productivity gap in science. They pointed out that on average, women published fewer papers than men, secure fewer grants and fill fewer leadership positions. Previous research has suggested that women are less productive because scientific working environments are less welcoming to them, they hold different positions from men or they have greater family responsibilities. But a 2020 study also hinted that women’s research is undervalued the study stated.


Matthew Ross, an economist at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, and his colleagues used a large data set of about 10,000 research teams in the United States for the study. The data set, hosted by the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, includes information about almost 1,29,000 researchers working in those teams including their job title, field of research, the grants they were employed on and how much of their time they charged to each grant between 2013 and 2010. The authors assigned gender to each person in the data set on the basis of their names, using two computer algorithms. The analysis did not take into account non-binary or gender-fluid researchers. The authors used these data to group scientists working on the same projects into research teams – and then used bibliometric data to create a list of scientific outputs such as published papers and patents, for each team between 2014 and 2016. The authors were then able to work out which researchers in a given team were and were not named on papers and patents. land to calculate differences by gender.

In the analysis, the authors found that the probability of a man ever being named as an author or inventor during the study period was 21 per cent, compared with 12 per cent for a woman. Even when men and women held the same position, women were five per cent less likely to be named as an author or inventor than were men.

To estimate the potential authorships that women missed out on, the authors compared the team members employed a year before a paper’s publication date — the pool of potential authors — with the actual authors listed on the manuscript. They found that across all job titles and fields, men had double women’s chances of being named on any scientific document. The researchers also polled 2,660 researchers who had published a paper after 2014, to find out their experiences of authorship. Both men and women said they had been excluded from papers to which they had contributed, but women were disproportionately affected. The most common reason researchers gave for not getting an author slot was that others underestimated their scientific contribution; 49% of women reported this, compared with 39% of men. Although respondents didn’t often mention feeling discriminated against, women were twice as likely to mention it as men.


On the question of what they did to earn authorship on a recent paper, the study said that women had to work harder than men get an authorship credit. “Women did significantly more than men when it came to conceptualizing the research, curating data, writing, reviewing and editing. The only category in which men reported a greater contribution than women was developing software,” the study said.


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