Quantitative Evaluation of Gender Bias in Astronomical Publications from Citation Counts [IMA]

Here’s an interesting paper from yesterday’s arXiv, looking at gender biases in various forms of bibliometric measures in the astronomical literature.

The key result is in Figure 6, if you haven’t got time to read the whole thing…



We analyze the role of first (leading) author gender on the number of citations that a paper receives, on the publishing frequency and on the self-citing tendency. We consider a complete sample of over 200,000 publications from 1950 to 2015 from five major astronomy journals. We determine the gender of the first author for over 70% of all publications. The fraction of papers which have a female first author has increased from less than 5% in the 1960s to about 25% today. We find that the increase of the fraction of papers authored by females is slowest in the most prestigious journals such as Science and Nature. Furthermore, female authors write 19$pm$7% fewer papers in seven years following their first paper than their male colleagues. At all times papers with male first authors receive more citations than papers with female first authors. This difference has been decreasing with time…

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2 Responses to “Quantitative Evaluation of Gender Bias in Astronomical Publications from Citation Counts [IMA]”

  1. “Bias” can indicate some sort of conscious decision. It could be that gender and citation rates have a common cause, so to speak, rather than one influencing the other. I’ve often heard people say “he” about a female author or “she” about a male author, because they didn’t know the gender or misinterpreted the name. (Names like Stacy, Tracy, Lee, Lynn, Ashley, Shirley (a long time ago), Kirsten (until a few decades ago), Shannon, Terry, Gale, Clair etc can be male or female. The name Jan is a common male name (cognate of John) in many languages, but most often (always?) female in English.)

    Of course, for various reasons (none related to any intrinsic higher scientific quality), men have often had higher-profile positions, and people often cite papers of past employers, or potential future employers, or people on the TAC, and so on.

    A few days ago, I witnessed something really rare: a female guitarist in a rock band who just played guitar, not singing at all. (The rest of the band, except the female singer, were men. The hair length of all was approximately equal, but all the men had beards.)

    • There of course will be common causes. They controlled for “seniority of the first author, number of references, total number of authors, year of publication, publication journal, field of study and region of the first author’s institutiom”, so it needs to be another common cause beyond that. It also needs to be a common cause that has been declining over time, as they find the situation as been improving (or at least, I’d call it improving).

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