Science

Who gets the credit for science? Often, it’s not women

in great shape , She may work hard, but she is less likely to get credit for it.

In science, the last measure of academic value is the number of published papers where you are credited as an author. There are subtleties that matter – where you are on the list of authors and whether others cite your publications. But it’s hard to take away the weights of the raw numbers for those factors. Other things, like grants and promotions, also matter a lot. But success in those areas often depends on a large publication list.

That’s why a publication released Wednesday by Nature is significant: It describes data that indicate women have been systematically omitted in the list of authors of scientific publications. The distinction between participation and publication persists even after considering various factors of career advancement. And this goes a long way toward explaining why science has a problem called “leaky pipelines,” where women drop out of research at a higher rate at each stage of their careers.

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It is very easy to crunch the data and see that women are under-represented in author lists attached to scientific papers. But figuring out why is a significant challenge. This may result from historically under-representation of women in certain areas, discrimination, or differences in effort and commitment. Figuring out which factors contribute is challenging because it involves identifying an invisible population: people who should be on the author’s list, but are not.

Complicating matters is that there are no clear rules about what kind of contributions are required to receive authorship. The members of a lab often help each other informally, and there is no clear boundary as to where that kind of assistance escalates to the point where it demands authorship. As a result, there are a lot of bad feelings about who makes the author list, and often those who don’t make the cut.

If you ask a scientist about their publication history, they’ll always have a story about a paper they should have been credited for, but left out.

The major challenge facing the researchers behind the new paper is figuring out how to discriminate between the equivalent of office politics and the existence of widespread bias. The key bit of enabling data comes from the Institute for Research on Innovation and Science at the University of Michigan, which collects data on more than 100 campuses that are part of 36 research universities. (For example, the University of California system is one university, but it has nine campuses, including UCLA, UC Santa Cruz, and UC Berkeley.) This data includes every grant held by researchers, any staff who provide funding, And that includes their job. title.

The data allowed the researchers to identify 128,859 people who were part of about 10,000 individual research teams. Those names were then cross-referenced in databases of scientific publications, linking individuals to nearly 40,000 papers and more than 7,500 patents. This data collection allowed the researchers to address a more focused question: If a scientific team is publishing successfully, is there a pattern for which team members are the authors of those publications?

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