Gender disparities in high-quality research revealed by Nature Index journals

Michael H K Bendels, Ruth Müller, Doerthe Brueggmann, David A Groneberg

Research output: Contribution to journalA1: Web of Science-articlepeer-review

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BACKGROUND: The present study aims to elucidate the state of gender equality in high-quality research by analyzing the representation of female authorships in the last decade (from 2008 to 2016).

METHODS: Based on the Gendermetrics platform, 293,557 research articles from 54 journals listed in the Nature Index were considered covering the categories Life Science, Multidisciplinary, Earth & Environmental and Chemistry. The core method was the combined analysis of the proportion of female authorships and the female-to-male odds ratio for first, co- and last authorships. The distribution of prestigious authorships was measured by the Prestige Index.

RESULTS: 29.8% of all authorships and 33.1% of the first, 31.8% of the co- and 18.1% of the last authorships were held by women. The corresponding female-to-male odds ratio is 1.19 (CI: 1.18-1.20) for first, 1.35 (CI: 1.34-1.36) for co- and 0.47 (CI: 0.46-0.48) for last authorships. Women are underrepresented at prestigious authorships compared to men (Prestige Index = -0.42). The underrepresentation accentuates in highly competitive articles attracting the highest citation rates, namely, articles with many authors and articles that were published in highest-impact journals. More specifically, a large negative correlation between the 5-Year-Impact-Factor of a journal and the female representation at prestigious authorships was revealed (r(52) = -.63, P < .001). Women publish fewer articles compared to men (39.0% female authors are responsible for 29.8% of all authorships) and are underrepresented at productivity levels of more than 2 articles per author. Articles with female key authors are less frequently cited than articles with male key authors. The gender-specific differences in citation rates increase the more authors contribute to an article. Distinct differences at the journal, journal category, continent and country level were revealed. The prognosis for the next decades forecast a very slow harmonization of authorships odds between the two genders.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0189136
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number1
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Authorship
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Journal Impact Factor
  • Male
  • Publishing
  • Research
  • Sex Factors


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