Scientific authorship by gender: trends before and during a global pandemic

Authors : Ji-Young Son, Michelle L. Bell

Many fields of science are still dominated by men. COVID-19 has dramatically changed the nature of work, including for scientists, such as lack of access to key resources and transition to online teaching. Further, scientists face the pandemic-related stressors common to other professions (e.g., childcare, eldercare).

As many of these activities fall more heavily on women, the pandemic may have exacerbated gender disparities in science. We analyzed self-identified gender of corresponding author for 119,592 manuscripts from 151 countries submitted January 2019 to July 2021 to the Institute of Physics (IOP) portfolio of 57 academic journals, with disciplines of astronomy and astrophysics, bioscience, environmental science, materials, mathematics, physics, and interdisciplinary research.

We consider differences by country, journal, and pre-pandemic versus pandemic periods. Gender was self-identified by corresponding author for 82.9% of manuscripts (N = 99,114 for subset of submissions with gender). Of these manuscripts, authors were 82.1% male, 17.8% female, and 0.08% non-binary. Most authors were male for all countries (country-specific values: range 0.0–100.0%, median 86.1%) and every journal (journal-specific values range 63.7–91.5%, median 83.7%).

The contribution of female authors was slightly higher in the pandemic (18.7%) compared to pre-pandemic (16.5%). However, prior to the pandemic, the percent of submissions from women had been increasing, and this value slowed during the pandemic. Contrary to our hypothesis, we did not find that manuscript submissions from women decreased during the pandemic, although the rate of increased submissions evident prior to the pandemic slowed.

In both pre-pandemic and pandemic periods, authorship was overwhelmingly male for all journals, countries, and fields. Further research is needed on impacts of the pandemic on other measures of scientific productivity (e.g., accepted manuscripts, teaching), scientific position (e.g., junior vs. senior scholars), as well as the underlying gender imbalance that persisted before and during the pandemic.

URL : Scientific authorship by gender: trends before and during a global pandemic