The Danish Centre for Studies in Research and Research Policy

Jesper Wiborg Schneider

Mapping the author gender-distribution of disease-specific medical research

Research output: Contribution to book/anthology/report/proceedingArticle in proceedingsResearchpeer-review

This short paper responds to a recent call for attention to the “diversity challenge” in biomedical research, specifically with regard to gender diversity. The lack of diversity can be limiting for the progression of knowledge production, a viewpoint shared by both the European Commission, the League of European Research Universities and the National Institute of Health.

We study the gender distribution of authors in medical research, specifically mapped to disease-classifications using the Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) found in PubMed Medline. The dataset consists of 1,542,050 papers, spanning from 2008-2015, with full author gender and disease classification, with metadata from PubMed and author affiliation information from Web of Science. The combination of information on disease and gender allows us to map diversity issues to specific diseases. Our hypothesis is that one of the decisive factors for variations in gender distribution is the difference in diseases specific to the male and female bodies.

On the most general level, we find that the distribution of authors is highly skewed toward an over-representation of male researchers. The areas, which have the highest representation of female researchers, pertain to either the female body or diseases affecting the language or communication of patients. In contrast, medical specialty rather than the male body, specifically the topic of fractures (orthopedic surgery); define the areas with the highest degree of male authors per paper. With the overrepresentation of male authors, there is a risk of research on diseases more prevalent among men to become the norm, which can lead to detrimental effects on women's health.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 21st International Conference on Science and Technology Indicators
EditorsIsmael Ràfols, Jordi Molas-Gallart, Elena Castro-Martínez, Richard Woolley
Number of pages11
PublisherEditorial Universidad Politécnica de Valencia
Publication year2016
ISBN (print)978-84-9048-519-4
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Event21st International Conference on Science and Technology Indicators: Peripheries, frontiers and beyond - Universitat Poliècnica deValència, València, Spain
Duration: 14 Sep 201616 Sep 2016
Conference number: 21


Conference21st International Conference on Science and Technology Indicators
LocationUniversitat Poliècnica deValència

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