Study finds considerable gender bias in authorship of COVID-19 research

In a study by the University of Oxford, a group of researchers established considerable gender bias in research authorship pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic. The study appeared in BMJ Global Health.

In their study, the Oxford researchers comprehensively examined published work regarding COVID-19 dating back to January 2020, during the onset of the pandemic. Researchers focused on identifying the genders of the senior positions of first and last author. More than 1,000 papers were assessed.

According to the findings, women in any authorship capacity was significantly lower in the papers assessed pertaining to COVID-19. Only 34 percent of all authors were women, while 29 percent of all papers analyzed featured a woman as the first author.

The under-representation of women in such areas of science research is significant and highlights purported gender bias inhibiting an equal balance of viewpoints in response to the novel coronavirus.

“Our findings on the major gender gap in research authorship on COVID-19, and in the most senior positions in particular, mirrors the under-representation of women in other areas of science research; a trend that has persisted for years,” said Ana Pinho-Gomes, co-author of the study.

The cause as to why women are under-represented in areas of scientific research, particularly pertaining to COVID-19, might be a result of less time to commit to research during the pandemic or such research is only being considered to those in leadership capacities, which woefully still remains a male-dominated realm.

In past studies, researchers have showcased the extent to which gender inequality is taking a toll on scientific journals. Advocating for more women academics to comment on publications and take hold of leadership roles is detrimental going forward.

Photo: iStock