Women in science get less credit for their contributions

MADRID, 23 Jun. (EUROPA PRESS) –

Women in science are less likely than their male counterparts to receive authorship credit for the work they do, according to a groundbreaking new study published in the journal Nature.

For the first time, the researchers used a large set of administrative data from universities that revealed exactly who was involved and paid for various research projects.

The data was linked to authorship information on patents and articles published in scientific journals, to see which people who worked on individual projects received patent and journal credits and who did not.

“There is a clear gap between the percentage of women and men who appear as co-authors in publications,” says Julia Lane, a co-author of the study and a professor at the University of New York (United States). “The gap is strong, persistent and independent of the field of investigation.

But they found another even bigger gap, and that is that women are not as likely as men to appear on patents related to projects they have both worked on; even controlling for all factors, the difference was 59%.

The administrative data that was key to this study came from the UMETRICS dataset available through the Institute for Research on Innovation and Science, which contained detailed information on sponsored research projects for 52 colleges and universities from 2013 to 2016.

It included information on 128,859 people working on 9,778 research teams, including faculty members, graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, research staff, and undergraduate students.

“We’ve known for some time that women publish and patent at a lower rate than men,” says Lane, a professor at NYU Wagner and the NYU Center for Science and Urban Progress. “But as previous data never showed who were involved in the research, no one knew why. There were anecdotes, such as that of Rosalind Franklin, who was denied authorship in a famous ‘Nature’ article by James Watson and Francis Crick despite having correctly demonstrated the structure of DNA double helix, but there was no evidence.

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This study showed that, at all job levels, women were less likely to earn credits than men. The difference was especially apparent in the early stages of their careers. For example, only 15 out of 100 graduate students were named as authors on a paper, compared to 21 out of 100 graduate students.

In addition, in all scientific fields, women were less likely to earn credits: from those in which they are in the majority (such as health) to those in which they are in the minority (such as engineering).

The results showed that women were even less likely to be listed as authors on what scientists consider “high-impact” articles.

“This is consistent with the Rosalind Franklin anecdote,” Lane said. “The attribution gap will have clear negative effects on the career prospects of women in science. I fear it will deter young women from pursuing scientific careers.” “.

A complementary study data source strengthened the results. A survey of more than 2,400 scientists revealed that women and other historically marginalized groups often have to work much harder to gain recognition for their scientific contributions.

Respondents to the survey noted that “being a woman means you often contribute in one way or another to science, but unless you shout or make a strong point, our contributions are often underestimated.” Several respondents mentioned that a lack of voice could disproportionately affect women, minorities, and foreign-born scientists.

The results of the survey showed that 43% of women said they had been excluded from a scientific article to which they had contributed, compared to 38% of men. Women are also more likely than men to say that others underestimate their contributions and that they face discrimination, stereotypes and prejudice.

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The new research, based on UMETRICS administrative data and survey results, goes beyond providing new insights into the causes of the long-observed gender gap in research output.

The paper showcases a rich new data infrastructure that can provide insights into the organization of science and could inform evidence-based policies to increase diversity in science.

The infrastructure developed by the team of collaborators enables new insights into the organization of science by capturing the contributions of those who often go unnoticed, especially younger researchers.

The work falls within the scientific tradition of the study of survival bias, which became famous when a statistician realized that military analysts had to use unseen data — planes not returning from combat — in rather than those that did, to fully understand why planes crashed.

Lane and colleagues have shown how new data on previously unseen collaborators can be used to identify scientists who are not visible in published work to document systematic attribution differences.

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