Women in science are less likely than their male counterparts to receive authoritative praise for the work they do, according to an innovative new study.
The researchers used for the first time a large body of administrative data from universities that revealed exactly who participated in and paid for various research projects.
The data was linked to patent writing information and articles published in scientific journals – to see which individuals who worked on individual projects received credit for patents and journals and who did not.
“There is a clear gap between the rate at which women and men are named as co-authors in publications,” said Julia Lane, co-author of the study and a professor at New York University. “The gap is strong, persistent and independent of the research field.”
And there was another, even bigger, gap.
Women are not as likely as men to be named in patents related to projects they have both worked on – even if controlled for all factors, the gap was 59%.
The administrative data that were key to this study came from the UMETRICS dataset available through the Research Institute for Innovation and Science, which contained detailed information on funded research projects for 52 colleges and universities from 2013 to 2016.
It included information on 128,859 people who worked in 9,778 research teams, including faculty members, postgraduate students, postdoctoral researchers, research staff, and undergraduates.
“We’ve known for a long time that women publish and patent at a slower rate than men,” said Lane, a professor at NYU Wagner and the NYU Center for Urban Science and Progress. “But because the previous data never showed who participated in the investigation, no one knew why. “There were jokes – like that of Rosalind Franklin, who refused to write a famous nature article by James Watson and Francis Crick despite proving the structure of the double-stranded DNA correctly – but there was no evidence.”
This study showed that at each level of position, women were less likely than men to receive credit. The gap was particularly evident in earlier stages of their careers. For example, only 15 in 100 graduate students were ever named as authors in a paper, compared to 21 in 100 male graduate students.
In addition, in all scientific fields, women were less likely to receive credit: from those who are in the majority (such as health) to those who are in the minority (such as engineering).
The results showed that women were even less likely to be listed as authors in what scientists consider “high-impact” articles.
“This is in line with Rosalind Franklin’s joke,” Lane said. “The performance gap will have a clear negative impact on women’s career prospects in science. “I’m afraid it will prevent young women from pursuing science as a career.”
A complementary data source for the study enhanced the results. A survey of more than 2,400 scientists found that women and other historically marginalized groups often have to make a much greater effort to recognize their scientific contribution. Respondents to the survey noted that “Being a woman [means] that very often you contribute in one way or another to science, but if you do not shout or mention a strong point, our contribution is often underestimated “. Many respondents said that the lack of a voice could disproportionately affect women, minorities and foreign scientists.
The survey found that 43% of women said they had been excluded from a research project they had contributed to — compared with 38% of men. Women were also more likely than men to report that others underestimated their contribution and faced discrimination, stereotypes and bias.
The new research based on administrative data from UMETRICS and the results of the research goes beyond providing new knowledge about the causes of the long-term gender gap in the research result. The paper presents a new and rich data infrastructure that can provide information on the organization of science and inform evidence-based policies to increase diversity in science.
The infrastructure developed by the team of collaborators allows for new insights into the organization of science, capturing the contributions of those often overlooked – especially younger researchers. The work is in the scientific tradition of the study of survival bias – made famous by an outside statistician realizing that military analysts should use invisible data – planes that did not return from battle, rather than those that returned fully understand why they crashed. Lane and her colleagues have shown how new data can be used for hitherto invisible contributors to identify not visible in published works to document systematic performance differences.
Other co-authors in the study were Matthew Ross of Northeastern University. Britta Glennon of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Raviv Murciano-Goroff of the Questrom School of Business at Boston University. and Bruce Weinberg and Enrico Berkes at Ohio State University.
NYU’s work for the study was mainly supported by funding from National Science Foundation grants to New York University (grants 1932689, 1761008, 1760544), the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Schmidt Futures Foundation, and the McGovern Patrick Foundation.
Data / statistical analysis
Women are less credited to science than their male counterparts
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