The research article (full text, open access) linked below was published today by BMJ.
Marc J Lerchenmueller
University of Mannheim
Anupam B Jena
Harvard Medical School
Massachusetts General Hospital
National Bureau of Economic Research
Women remain underrepresented on faculties of medicine and the life sciences more broadly. Whether gender differences in self presentation of clinical research exist and may contribute to this gender gap has been challenging to explore empirically. The objective of this study was to analyze whether men and women differ in how positively they frame their research findings and to analyze whether the positive framing of research is associated with higher downstream citations.
Retrospective observational study.
Titles and abstracts from 101 720 clinical research articles and approximately 6.2 million general life science articles indexed in PubMed and published between 2002 and 2017.
Main outcome measures
Analysis of article titles and abstracts to determine whether men and women differ in how positively they present their research through use of terms such as “novel” or “excellent.” For a set of 25 positive terms, we estimated the relative probability of positive framing as a function of the gender composition of the first and last authors, adjusting for scientific journal, year of publication, journal impact, and scientific field.
Articles in which both the first and last author were women used at least one of the 25 positive terms in 10.9% of titles or abstracts versus 12.2% for articles involving a male first or last author, corresponding to a 12.3% relative difference (95% CI 5.7% to 18.9%). Gender differences in positive presentation were greatest in high impact clinical journals (impact factor >10), in which women were 21.4% less likely to present research positively. Across all clinical journals, positive presentation was associated with 9.4% (6.6% to 12.2%) higher subsequent citations, and in high impact clinical journals 13.0% (9.5% to 16.5%) higher citations. Results were similar when broadened to general life science articles published in journals indexed by PubMed, suggesting that gender differences in positive word use generalize to broader samples.
Clinical articles involving a male first or last author were more likely to present research findings positively in titles and abstracts compared with articles in which both the first and last author were women, particularly in the highest impact journals. Positive presentation of research findings was associated with higher downstream citations.
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Harvard Gazette Report About Research Article
Findings framed as ‘promising,’ ‘novel,’ ‘unique’ — used more often by male researchers — are likelier to be cited.