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Women In Science

Women publish at rates equal to men but leave science earlier

by Andrea Widener
February 22, 2020 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 98, Issue 8


Multiple studies have shown that men publish more papers than women during their careers. Speculation about the cause of that imbalance includes family responsibilities, academic rank, and work climate. New research finds that women worldwide publish at the same rate as men, but they leave science earlier (Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 2020, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1914221117). An international group of researchers led by Northeastern University network scientist Albert-László Barabási looked at publications in Web of Science authored by over 1.5 million scientists—including chemists—with careers that ended between 1955 and 2010. It confirmed that just 27% of published scientists are women. And men publish more during their careers, an average of 13.2 papers compared with 9.6 for women from their first published paper to their last. But when the authors looked at average annual productivity, the rate is almost equal: 1.32 papers per year for men versus 1.33 for women. The researchers conclude that the publishing gap between men and women is almost entirely caused by women’s shorter careers. The result was consistent across all countries and disciplines, including chemistry.

Women chemists are just as productive as men
Male chemists worldwide publish more than women throughout their careers. But when career length is taken into account, the difference is negligible. Source: Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 2020, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1914221117. Note: Includes 114,381 male and 35,553 female chemists whose publication careers ended between 1955 and 2010. a Publication career length is calculated as the time between a person's first and last publications.
Chart comparing men's and women's publications and career lengths.


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