1. Human Biology and Medicine
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Meta-Research: COVID-19 medical papers have fewer women first authors than expected

  1. Jens Peter Andersen
  2. Mathias Wullum Nielsen
  3. Nicole L Simone
  4. Resa E Lewiss
  5. Reshma Jagsi  Is a corresponding author
  1. Danish Centre for Studies in Research and Research Policy, Department of Political Science, Aarhus University, Denmark
  2. Department of Sociology, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
  3. Department of Radiation Oncology, Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center, Thomas Jefferson University, United States
  4. Department of Emergency Medicine, Thomas Jefferson University, United States
  5. Department of Radiation Oncology, University of Michigan, United States
  6. Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine, University of Michigan, United States
Feature Article
Cite this article as: eLife 2020;9:e58807 doi: 10.7554/eLife.58807
1 figure, 1 table, 1 data set and 2 additional files

Figures

COVID-19 papers have fewer female authors than papers from 2019 published in the same journals.

(a–c) Observed (bars) and estimated (crosses and error-bars) proportions of women among authors of 1,893 US papers on COVID-19 and 85,373 papers published in the same journals in 2019. The bars show differences in the observed proportions of women in the first-author position (a), the last-author position (b), and any author position (c), for papers published in 2020 COVID-19 papers (blue bars) versus papers from the same journals in 2019 (orange bars). All three panels suggest a decrease in the observed proportion of women. The crosses and error bars show the adjusted means and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) derived from mixed regression models with scientific journal as random effect parameter. (d–f) Adjusted means (crosses) and 95% CIs (error bars) derived from mixed regression models for the proportion of women in the first-author position (d), last-author position (e) and any author position (f), for papers published in 2019 (left-most crosses and error bars in each panel), papers published in March and April 2020 (middle), and papers published in May 2020 (right). For all models, there is a drop in March and April, followed by a partial resurgence in May. However, the uncertainty of the estimates make these comparisons inconclusive. See Supplementary file 1 for details of the mixed regression models used to estimate adjusted means and 95% CIs.

Tables

Table 1
Proportion of women authors on 2019 papers and COVID-19 papers by specialty.

Number of observations, N, and proportion of women by author list position for journals grouped by their specialty. The grouped columns show results by journal specialty for COVID papers published in 2020 (four rightmost columns) in contrast to papers from the same journals in 2019. Only papers with a US-based first and/or last author and clear gender for first and last author are included.

Journal specialty2019 papersCOVID-19 papers
NProportion of womenNProportion of women
First authorFull groupLast authorFirst authorFull groupLast author
Dermatology18110.440.420.37720.460.410.31
Emergency medicine12830.320.300.22540.310.250.13
High impact general medicine71420.410.420.391940.310.370.35
Infectious diseases14040.450.420.34440.200.320.34
Internal medicine19,9800.360.330.254840.330.320.24
Other basic sciences69750.420.380.291350.330.340.28
Other clinical sciences21,8690.400.370.314290.380.380.35
Otolaryngology10630.320.290.211060.280.290.24
Pathology8690.460.430.32660.270.370.30
Public health11,0150.470.410.35990.330.410.37
Radiology22620.370.330.27600.250.280.17
Surgery97000.210.200.131860.260.220.16

Data availability

The final dataset for the main analysis is available on OSF: https://osf.io/cpv2m/.

The following data sets were generated
  1. 1
    Open Science Framework
    1. JP Andersen
    2. MW Nielsen
    (2020)
    Inferred gender of COVID-19 researchers per article.

Additional files

Supplementary file 1

Details of the mixed regression models used to estimate the adjusted means and 95% confidence limits shown in Figure 1.

https://cdn.elifesciences.org/articles/58807/elife-58807-supp1-v2.docx
Transparent reporting form
https://cdn.elifesciences.org/articles/58807/elife-58807-transrepform-v2.pdf

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