The Danish Centre for Studies in Research and Research Policy

Ungendered writing: Writing styles are unlikely to account for gender differences in funding rates in the natural and technical sciences

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Academia has traditionally faced a substantial gender gap in staff positions and career path progression. Women do not advance up the academic career ladder in the same rate as men, with evidence of gender bias in hiring, earnings, funding, and recognition by means of prestigious awards.

In this study we focus on gender differences in funding applications. Multiple factors have been proposed as potentially underlying mechanisms creating differences in funding rates between men and women, including bias in peer review processes and differences in language use. In this study we use a set of 1560 full-text applications in the natural and technical sciences that were subjected to a double-blind review process at a Danish private funder to analyse gendered writing as a potential factor causing differences in funding rates. Reproducing analyses from previous studies that found significant differences in writing styles, we analyse patterns in the use of positive words, levels of readability, concreteness and sentiment. Unlike previous studies, we only find minimal differences in writing style between the sexes. We conclude that writing styles are unlikely to account for skewed funding patterns and suggest ways in which funding programmes can be designed to provide fair opportunities to all applicants.
Original languageEnglish
Article number101332
JournalJournal of Informetrics
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022

    Research areas

  • EMPIRICAL LIKELIHOOD RATIO, GRANT, Gender bias, IMPACT, computational text analysis, diversity, equality and inclusion, funding process, writing style

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