Trends in authorship based on gender and nationality in published neuroscience literature
Correspondence Address: Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None DOI: 10.4103/0028-3886.173643
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
Objective: To evaluate the disparity in authorship based on gender and nationality of institutional affiliation among journals from developed and developing countries.
Keywords: Authors; gender gap; nationality; neurology; neuroscience; publication bias
Previous studies have pointed towards existing disparities in the authorship of published literature in medicine, based on gender. It is well known that there are inequities in the gender and nationality of authors in high impact factor medical journals., However, on our review we did not find a published study evaluating authorship based on gender or nationality in the neuroscience literature.
We hypothesized that there is disparity in authorship based on gender and nationality of institutional affiliation among high impact factor neuroscience journals but there is considerable reduction in this gap over the period of 10 years. We also hypothesized that a similar disparity in authorship based on gender exists in neurology journals based in a developing country.
Original articles from two neuroscience journals, with a 5 year impact factor >15 (Neuron and Nature Neuroscience) and from two neurology journals from a developing country (Neurology India and Annals of Indian Academy of Neurology) were examined. Published articles were categorized by gender and nationality of institutional affiliations of first and senior authors. Articles were further divided by type of research (basic/translational/clinical), study/target population (adult/pediatrics/both) and field of neuroscience. Articles such as commentaries, case reports, clinical practice discussions, or any other type of article that did not constitute original research were not used. Data was collected for the years 2002 and 2012. We compared authorship in developed country to developing country, in terms of gender of first/senior authors. Determination of gender was made based on an internet search of the authors' name and institutional affiliation, with other demographic information provided in the publication. The content of the applications was analyzed by two independent investigators.
Univariable analysis was performed using Fisher's exact test for categorical variables. A 2-sided P value of < 0.05 was considered significant. The Kappa coefficient of agreement between the two investigators was calculated. All statistical analysis was done using IBM SPSS Statistics 21.0 for Windows (SPSS Inc.).
980 articles were analyzed from Nature Neuroscience (373), and Neuron (607). 29% (284) of first authors and 17.8% (170) of senior authors were women [Table 1]. 96.7% (948) and 3.3% (31) of the published literature was from developed and developing countries, respectively. A majority of published articles were from institutions in the US (67.3%), followed by the United Kingdom (UK; 6.4%), and Germany (5.6%). 91.1% were basic science research or translational research articles and 8.1% were clinical research articles. There was a non-statistical increase in female first authorship from 27.6% in 2002 to 31% in 2012 (P = 0.345) and female senior authorship 16.8% in 2002 to 18.2% in 2012 (P = 0.554). There was a significant increase in female first authorship among articles pertinent to adult population between 2002 and 2012, from 15.4% to 43.7% (P < 0.05, OR 4.27, confidence interval (CI) 1.19-15.29). There was no significant increase in female authorship in any of the neuroscience sub-specialties [Figure 1].
In the two journals based in India, the majority of first and senior authors were men; 74% and 81.7% respectively [Table 1]. Seventy five percent of published papers were from Indian institutions. There was a non-statistical increase in the number of female first authorship (17.9% to 30.7%, P = 0.178) and senior female authorship (10.3% to 23.1%, P = 0.122) from 2002 to 2012. In comparing authorship between the two US based and India based journals, there was no significant difference in the number of female first and senior authors (29% versus 26%, P = 0.497 17.8% versus 18.3%, P = 0.894).
In Neuron and Nature Neuroscience, there was a significant increase in the first authorship from institutions based in developing countries from 1.6% in 2002 to 4.6% in 2012 (P < 0.05, OR 3.01, CI 1.29-7.04). There was also a non-significant rise in senior authorship from developing country institutions from 1.8% to 2.6% (P = 0.517). Notably, in the two neurology journals based in India there was a significant increase in articles published by international investigators between 2002 and 2012 (7.7% to 33.8%, P < 0.01, OR 6.14, CI 1.69-2.19).
The Kappa coefficient of agreement between the two investigators was 0.88.
The results from this study indicate that there are still large disparities in authorship by women especially from developing countries in high impact factor neuroscience journals. Similar gender disparities seem to exist in neurology journals from a developing country.
There was a rise in female first and senior authorship in neuroscience journals over a 10-year period, although the increase was not found to be statistically significant. This was accompanied by a significant increase in the number of female first authors from developing countries. Even in neurology journals based in India, there was a non-statistical increase in the female first or senior authorship. Interestingly, in these journals there was a significant increase in contributions from international investigators.
Though there have been no definitive studies solely examining academic neuroscience, Nonnemaker et al., examined the cohorts of men and women in academic medicine advancing to the ranks of associate and full professor between 1979 and 1997. He found that there was a significant disparity between the percentages of women and men who rose to senior academic positions. Possible reasons could be poor maternity leave/benefits, lack of understading about family demands from other academics, and perhaps even perceptions of gender in the academic setting. Carr et al., explored the relationships between gender and academics, and found that women faculty with children tended to publish less than male faculty with children., A study done in Massachusetts found that women who worked reduced hours had stronger relationships between family experiences and professional outcomes than their full-time counterparts. In academic settings, part-time work may be harder to come by and would likely preclude professional growth.
Some researchers suggest that the inequity of women in academia may start at an early age, and would be best addressed by getting school age adolescent girls interested in math and science and finding ways to help them develop their self-esteem, a quality they will need to maintain if they are to be successful in scientific academia. Some academic institutions, such as the University of California (UC) Davis School of Medicine (UC Davis), have started initiatives to increase support for their female faculty. At UC Davis, for example, the Women in Medicine and Health Science Program has resulted in a steady increase in the number and percentage of female faculty members and department chairs, as well as an increasing retention rate of female faculty. Similar programs at more institutions may help to increase the rise in and the retention of senior female faculty, and in doing so, would likely also promote an increase in female first and senior authorship in various medical disciplines. Some researchers have further suggested that medical academia ought to look to the world of business and develop 'best practices' geared toward advancing women within their academic institution.
The proportion of first authors from institutions based in developing countries in high impact factor neuroscience journals increased significantly; however, the contribution is still very low at only 4.6%. This could be due to the fact that the two neuroscience journals examined in this study are both published in the US. They may receive more submissions from within the US than from any other country. Additionally limitation in allocation of resources or funding to research may also play an important part in the low rate of scientific publications from institutions based in developing countries in these high impact factor journals.
Limitations of this paper include limited data set (four journals only). Limited numbers made the assessment of association or correlations difficult. Despite a considerable difference in percentages of some of the variables, statistical significance was not obtained. No United Nations based standardized criteria for developed versus developing country exist. In our study, this differentiation was made based on the Human Development Index. Additionally, articles such as case reports, commentaries or clinical practice discussions, or any other type of article that did not constitute original research were not included. We were only able to assess the institutional affiliation of the authors at the time of publication of the article. Determination of gender was made based on an internet search. Thus, publications in which clear determination of the gender of the first or senior author couldn't be made were excluded from analysis.
Future studies that would be of benefit include exploring reasons for barriers to contribution from women in academics as well as those from developing countries. Further, qualitative and quantitative data regarding the pressures of academics with regard to gender and nationality, and a larger review of different neurological and psychiatric journals could prove beneficial in understanding the forces behind this still marked disparity in authorship.
Over the last decade, there has been a non-statistical rise in the proportion of female first and senior authors in high impact factor neuroscience journals. The proportion of authors from developing countries in these journals has also increased significantly. However, they continue to constitute a minority. The disparity in authorship based on gender also exists in neurology journals based in a developing country (India). There seems to be a significant increase in contribution from international investigators to the journals based in India.
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