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Study examines gender bias in Royal Society of Chemistry journals

Women are less likely to author chemistry research papers, and their papers are less likely to be cited in other articles

by Andrea Widener
November 7, 2019 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 97, Issue 44


Women face a substantial deficit in chemistry publishing, a new study of Royal Society of Chemistry journals shows.

The RSC report says that only 36% of RSC authors are women. Women are corresponding authors on 24% of submitted papers and 23% of accepted papers. Just 18% of citations go to papers with a woman as a corresponding author.

“There is a complex interaction of subtle biases occurring throughout the publishing pipeline, which combine to put women at a disadvantage when disseminating their research,” says Robert Parker, CEO of the RSC, in an introduction to the report. “We must recognise where this happens.”

The study looked at manuscript submissions from January 2014 to July 2018 and citations from August 2011 to September 2018.

The research also found that women are less likely to submit their papers to high-impact journals and are more likely to have an article rejected without review—43%, versus 40% for men. Women are less likely to be chosen as reviewers for articles; when they are, they are more likely to be assigned to review papers by other women.

Overall, the report says the RSC plans to scrutinize its processes and hopes to reduce biases by increasing transparency about publishing decision-making, striving to better reflect the research community, testing new models to eliminate biases, and encouraging interventions that will change the publishing industry.

The RSC publishes 44 research journals. The report did not look at other chemistry publications and so does not necessarily reflect the broader chemistry publishing community.



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