Gender bias in academic publishing leading more women to ostracism and subservience

A gender gap is taking toll on reputable scientific journals, with women academics less likely than men to comment on published work, a new study shows.

Based on new research, published in PLOS, gender bias in academic commenting on published journals could lead to further ostracism among women in the scientific community. As a result, Cary Wu, an Assistant Professor of Sociology at York University, and co-author of the study, advocates in the findings the addition of more women academics in publications.

“If left unaddressed, these patterns in academic commenting could impede scholarly exchange between men and women and further marginalize women within the scientific community,” Wu writes in the findings.

The York-led study focused on the commenting on published work of two peer-reviewed journals: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) and Science, over a span of 16 years. Researchers gathered and analyzed 1,350 comments on those two peer-reviewed journals, combing through a wealth of gender information.

As indicated in the study, women are disadvantaged in numerous areas of academic publishing, such as peer-reviewing, readership, and even media coverage.

Greater prevalence of published work with female first authors may provide changes to structural and crediting of research teams, a decrease in gender disparities, more diverse opinion, and representations of female contributions in the scientific community.

“Subtle gender dynamics in the publishing process involving collaboration, peer-review, readership, citation, and media coverage disadvantage women in academia,” the study says.

“Problems of submission and/or acceptance rate differentials could be solved were editors to specifically promote more scholarly exchange between men and women. However, in the case of invited commentary, recent research suggests that women have 21% lower odds of authoring an invited commentary in medical journals compared with men with similar scientific expertise, seniority, and publication metrics,” the findings explained.

“Hence, editorial attention to the issue of gendered patterns is essential to address the gender bias in commenting more broadly.”

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