Women in science are less likely than their male counterparts to receive authorship credit: Study

Women were also more likely than men to report that others underestimated their contributions and that they faced discrimination, stereotyping, and bias.
Representational Image. (File Photo)
Representational Image. (File Photo)

Women in science are less likely than their male counterparts to receive authorship credit for the work they do, an innovative new study finds. Results showed that women were even less likely to be listed as an author on what scientists consider "high-impact" articles. In addition, in all scientific fields, women were less likely to get credit: from ones where they are the majority (such as health) to those where they are the minority (such as engineering).

Moreover, women are not nearly as likely as men to be named on patents related to projects that they both worked on -- even controlling for all factors, the gap was 59%.

The survey results showed that 43% of women said they had been excluded from a scientific paper to which they had contributed -- compared to 38% of men. Women were also more likely than men to report that others underestimated their contributions and that they faced discrimination, stereotyping, and bias.

According to ScienceDaily, researchers for the first time used a large set of administrative data from universities that revealed exactly who was involved with and paid on various research projects. This study showed that at every position level, women were less likely than men to get credit. The gap was particularly evident at earlier stages of their careers. For example, only 15 out of 100 female graduate students were ever named as an author on a document, compared with 21 out of 100 male graduate students.

"There is a clear gap between the rate at which women and men are named as co-authors on publications," said Julia Lane, a co-author on the study and a professor at New York University. "The gap is strong, persistent, and independent of the research field."

"We have known for a long time that women publish and patent at a lower rate than men," said Lane, a professor at NYU Wagner and the NYU Center for Urban Science and Progress. "But because previous data never showed who participated in research, no-one knew why. There were anecdotes -- like that of Rosalind Franklin, who was denied authorship in a famous nature article by James Watson and Francis Crick despite correctly demonstrating the double helix structure of DNA -- but there was no evidence."

A complementary source of data for the study reinforced the results. A survey of over 2,400 scientists revealed that women and other historically marginalized groups must often put in significantly more effort for their scientific contributions to be recognized. Respondents to the survey noted that "Being a woman [means] that quite often you contribute in one way or another to science but unless you shout or make a strong point, our contributions are often underestimated." Multiple respondents mentioned that lack of voice could disproportionately affect women, minorities, and foreign-born scientists.

The data were linked to authorship information on patents and articles published in scientific journals -- to see which people who worked on individual projects received credit in the patents and journals and who did not.

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