Male scientists appear to frame their research findings more positively than female scientists, irrespective of the importance or novelty of those findings, according to a study in The BMJ (British Medical Journal). Rather than encouraging women to frame their research findings more positively, the study says interventions should be deployed to help men exercise more restraint.
Women remain underrepresented in academic medicine and the life sciences. They also earn lower salaries, receive fewer research grants, and receive fewer citations than their male colleagues.”
”One factor that may contribute to these gender gaps is differences in the extent to which women promote their research accomplishments relative to men, yet evidence of this in the academic life sciences is lacking.”
A team of researchers analysed the use of words such as “novel,” “unique,” or “unprecedented” in titles and abstracts of over 100 000 clinical research articles and over six million general life science articles published between 2002 and 2017.
These positive terms were then compared with the gender of the first and last authors on each article. They also assessed whether gender differences in positive presentation varied with journal impact.
Overall, 17% of clinical research articles involved a female first and last author, whereas 83% of articles involved a male first or last author.
The results show that articles in which the first and last authors were both women were, on average, 12.3% less likely to use positive terms to describe research findings compared with articles in which the first and/or last author was male.
The authors say their study provides “large scale evidence that men in academic medicine and the life sciences more broadly may present their own research more favourably than women, and that these differences may help to call attention to their research through higher downstream citations.”
Differences in the degree of self promotion, particularly in the highest impact journals, “may contribute to the well documented gender gaps in academic medicine and in science more broadly”.