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Wednesday, 04 December 2019

A study by the Royal Society of Chemistry reveals gender biases in publishing

According to a report recently published by the Royal Society of Chemistry, gender biases exist at every stage of the paper publishing process, resulting in less scientific success and reduced opportunities of career progression for women. The outcome of this thorough study will be the basis for the implementation of measures oriented at removing any cause of explicit or implicit discrimination.

The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) has published a report about a study on gender bias in publishing in chemical sciences. More than 715,000 manuscript submissions and 141,000 citations between RSC journals were considered to carry out an in-depth gender analysis of each stage of the publication process. The study found that indeed systemic biases exist and that their combined effect puts female chemists at a significant disadvantage.

As highlighted in the report, women are less likely than men to be corresponding author or the sole author of papers and to submit their work to journals with higher impact factor, thus they do not benefit from the consequent visibility and career progression opportunities. The analysis also revealed that women see more often their articles rejected without review and that reviewers, in particular the male ones, tend to recommend rejection or major revisions for submission from female corresponding authors. A similar pattern appears when looking at citations: papers submitted by female corresponding authors are cited less than those from the male counterpart, and male researchers are more likely to cite studies led by other men.

The Royal Chemical Society intends to continue scrutinising its own publishing process and to take actions aimed at removing any source of implicit or explicit bias. Being aware of the problem is just the first step; the following will be recruiting more female reviewers and editors -- since the current situation does not reflect the gender balance of the research community -- and providing editors with training and resources to be able to eliminate biases. The RCS also calls on other publishing companies and editors to take a similar approach and encourages partnership to develop an “Inclusion & Diversity Framework for Action” for the academic publishing industry.

The mentioned report, called “Is publishing in the chemical sciences gender biased?”, and additional material are available for download on the RCS website. An associated data science paper has also been published: “Is There a Gender Gap in Chemical Sciences Scholarly Communication?”.