Meta-Research: Individual-level researcher data confirm the widening gender gap in publishing rates during COVID-19

  1. Emil Bargmann Madsen
  2. Mathias Wullum Nielsen
  3. Josefine Bjørnholm
  4. Reshma Jagsi
  5. Jens Peter Andersen  Is a corresponding author
  1. Aarhus University, Denmark
  2. University of Copenhagen, Denmark
  3. University of Michigan, United States

Abstract

Publications are essential for a successful academic career, and there is evidence that the COVID-19 pandemic has amplified existing gender disparities in the publishing process. We used longitudinal publication data on 431,207 authors in four disciplines - basic medicine, biology, chemistry and clinical medicine - to quantify the differential impact of COVID-19 on the annual publishing rates of men and women. In a difference-in-differences analysis, we estimated that the average gender difference in publication productivity increased from -0.26 in 2019 to -0.35 in 2020; this corresponds to the output of women being 17% lower than the output of men in 2019, and 24% lower in 2020. An age-group comparison showed a widening gender gap for both early-career and mid-career scientists. The increasing gender gap was most pronounced among highly productive authors and in biology and clinical medicine. Our study demonstrates the importance of reinforcing institutional commitments to diversity through policies that support the inclusion and retention of women in research.

Data availability

The current manuscript is a computational study, so no data have been generated for this manuscript. Source data and code will be provided on git-hub for all tables and figures.

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Emil Bargmann Madsen

    Danish Centre for Studies in Research and Research Policy, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark
    Competing interests
    No competing interests declared.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0003-4394-5373
  2. Mathias Wullum Nielsen

    Department of Sociology, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
    Competing interests
    No competing interests declared.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0001-8759-7150
  3. Josefine Bjørnholm

    Danish Centre for Studies in Research and Research Policy, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark
    Competing interests
    No competing interests declared.
  4. Reshma Jagsi

    Department of Radiation Oncology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, United States
    Competing interests
    Reshma Jagsi, stock options as compensation for advisory board role at Equity Quotient, a company that evaluates culture in health care companies; has received personal fees from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as a special government employee (in her role as a member of the Advisory Committee for Research on Women's Health), the Greenwall Foundation, and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation; has received grants for unrelated work from the NIH, the Doris Duke Foundation, the Greenwall Foundation, the Komen Foundation, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan for the Michigan Radiation Oncology Quality Consortium; has held a contract to conduct an unrelated investigator-initiated study with Genentech; has served as an expert witness for Sherinian and Hasso, Dressman Benzinger LaVelle, and Kleinbard LLC..
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0001-6562-1228
  5. Jens Peter Andersen

    Danish Centre for Studies in Research and Research Policy, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark
    For correspondence
    jpa@ps.au.dk
    Competing interests
    No competing interests declared.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0003-2444-6210

Funding

Samfund og Erhverv, Det Frie Forskningsråd (DFF-0133-00165B)

  • Emil Bargmann Madsen
  • Mathias Wullum Nielsen
  • Josefine Bjørnholm
  • Jens Peter Andersen

Aarhus Universitets Forskningsfond (AUFF-F-2018-7-5)

  • Jens Peter Andersen

Independent Research Fund Denmark (9130-00029B)

  • Mathias Wullum Nielsen

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Peter Rodgers, eLife, United Kingdom

Publication history

  1. Received: December 21, 2021
  2. Accepted: March 15, 2022
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: March 16, 2022 (version 1)
  4. Accepted Manuscript updated: March 17, 2022 (version 2)
  5. Version of Record published: March 23, 2022 (version 3)

Copyright

© 2022, Madsen et al.

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.

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  1. Emil Bargmann Madsen
  2. Mathias Wullum Nielsen
  3. Josefine Bjørnholm
  4. Reshma Jagsi
  5. Jens Peter Andersen
(2022)
Meta-Research: Individual-level researcher data confirm the widening gender gap in publishing rates during COVID-19
eLife 11:e76559.
https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.76559

Further reading

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