Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Gender Gap in Science Publishing

My friend and fellow blogger Dr. Budke over at Moss Plants and More has a great post today about a study on gender in academic publishing. The research group conducting it, at the University of Washington, have access (via the archive JStor) to almost 8 million scholarly papers in a number of academic fields, from evolution to anthropology to law to classics. They decided to use this database to study gender differences in academic publishing, and have built two really excellent online viewers that allow you to peruse the data, broken up by time period and field, and showing the percentage of papers that include female authors. You can also see what percentage have women as first and last authors (the two most important author positions in academic publishing).

The data are really fascinating, and I'm happy to observe that the overall trend as you move through the three time periods (going from 1665-1970 to 1971-1990 to 1991-2010) is one of increasing female participation in publishing over all fields. The increase in the most recent two decades, compared to the 1971-1990 timeframe, is particularly impressive. What's most fun, though, is that they break things down quite finely into discipline and subdiscipline - so, for example, within the Ecology & Evolution category, there's a subcategory for Ferns! The "All years" percentages of female authors for the category and subcategory, respectively, are 18.5% and 19.7%, but within the last two decades they've risen to 22.8% and 25.9%. So fern biology publications have tended to have more female authors than the general evolution category, but we've pulled a bit further ahead in the last 20 years or so. Pretty cool! And since it was Jessica's post that alerted me to this dataset in the first place, I have to acknowledge that her field, Bryophytes, is even closer to gender parity in its publishing than we fern folks - they're at 34.1% female authors over the last two decades. Way to go Moss Plants and your people!

You can explore the data in a variety of ways at these two sites:
Women as Academic Authors, 1665-2010
Gender composition of scholarly publications (1665-2011)

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