By GREGORY ZELLER //
A review of nearly two decades of publications in the nation’s top medical journals shows a clear bias against female authors.
Led by researchers at Stony Brook University Renaissance School of Medicinea new scientific study has calculated author articles in The New England Journal of Medicinethe Journal of the American Medical Association and The Lancet – a weekly peer-reviewed general medical journal ranked among the best in the world – between 2002 and 2019.
The 18-year-old analysis, which randomly sampled 1,080 author citations in published articles, tested for significant disparities between first, second and last authors – and found what the researchers called a ” gender gap,” with women listed as first author on just 26.8% of sampled articles.
In addition to accounting for barely a quarter of all papers published by distinguished journals, this is well below the rate of full-time female medical professors in the United States (37.2%, according to the SBU).
Women authors were “similarly underrepresented” in the second and last author slots, according to the results, which were published this week in PLOS ONE, the Public Science LibraryThe open-access, peer-reviewed journal.
Female first authors also saw declines Web of Science count – measuring author impact on a publisher-independent global citation database popular among researchers – and significantly less likely than men to publish work on clinical trials or disease-related research cardiovascular disease, according to the new study.
More than just a worrying trend, the research clearly demonstrates “another side of the glass ceiling in medicine,” according to co-lead author A. Laurie Shroyer, vice president of research and professor of surgery at the Renaissance School, who shares the headliner here with senior co-writer Henry Tannous, co-director of the Stony Brook University Heart Institute.
“Given the strides women have made in contributing to science and medicine over the past few decades, these results show a clear indication of a gender gap in fatherhood,” Shroyer added.
And this gap has a self-perpetuating domino effect: the researchers identified a problem – and an opportunity – with what they called “gender alignment,” in which the first and last authors of a publication are of the same sex.
Although the relationship between first and last author is not automatically understood as a mentor-protégé relationship, it is often exactly that – and regardless, note Shroyer and Tannous, it is an inherent opportunity to promote mentor-protégé relationships.
Their research showing higher publication rates among publications where the first and last authors are of the same gender, gender alignment – more specifically, “author alignment” based on gender – may be “a strategy to mitigate gender inequalities,” according to the researchers.
“Collaborations between early and late female authors show promise for alleviating the huge gender disparities of female authors that are documented,” Shroyer said. “Our ongoing research projects are further evaluating this new author’s concept of ‘gender alignment’.”