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Solving the Productivity and Impact Puzzle: Do Men Outperform Women? Or are Metrics Biased?

Photo of The career and gender distribution of ecology authors used in the analysis, Angela White, USDA Forest ServiceThe career and gender distribution of ecology authors used in the analysis, Angela White, USDA Forest ServiceSnapshot : The disproportionate attrition of women from science suggests current retention strategies are unsuccessful. But are female scientists’ careers stagnating or ending because of their inability to compete with their male colleagues? Or are the metrics commonly used to evaluate a researcher’s productivity or impact inadvertently favorable toward men? Forest Service scientists compared the publishing patterns of men and women within the discipline of ecology and showed sexual dimorphism in self-citation leading to higher h-index scores for men despite lower citations per paper, which is exacerbated by more career absences by women.

Principal Investigators(s) :
White, Angela M. 
Research Station : Pacific Southwest Research Station (PSW)
Year : 2016
Highlight ID : 1022

Summary

The attrition of women from science with increasing career stage continues, suggesting that current strategies are unsuccessful at retaining female researchers. Research evaluation using unbiased metrics could be important for the retention of women because other factors, such as implicit bias, are unlikely to quickly change. Forest Service scientists compared the publishing patters of men and women within the discipline of ecology and showed sexual dimorphism in self-citation, leading to higher h-index scores for men despite lower citations per paper, which is exacerbated by more career absences by women; however, if self-citations and no-research active years are excluded, there are no gender differences in research performance. The pattern is consistent across disciplines and may contribute to current geographic disparities in research performance, rewarding confident behavior and traditional career paths rather than research impact. Importantly, these changes would not disadvantage anyone because self-citation does not indicate broader impact, and researchers should only be judged on their research-active career.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

 
  • Elissa Cameron, University of Tasmania
  • Meeghan Gray, Truckee Meadows Community College, NV

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