Field of Science

Gender and Academic Publishing

Are female researchers well represented as authors of publications in your academic discipline? Ever wonder about the gender differences across different academic fields? A group of scientists asked that question using a data set of 1.8 million scholarly publications from 1665 to 2011 that are archived in the online digital database JSTOR.

The results of their research are not yet published, but you can check out the data using two different interactive graphics. They display the percentage of publications that have women authors, women first authors, and women last authors. They also sort the time-spans into different groups and allow you to narrow down to particular fields or sub-fields.

Basically the interactive graphics are amazing! You can check out two different versions of the graphics at the links below. 

And why might you ask am I talking about this study on a bryology blog? If you look under Ecology and Evolutionary Biology there are 18.5% female authors, but the subfield of Bryology is much higher than this average at 30.1%. This could be a bit of a numbers game. Bryology has many fewer authors than other more popular fields with only 571 authors included in this study, but still the percentage is quite higher. I am happy to say that a number of my publications are archived in this database and may have contributed to these higher values for the field of bryology.

If you are at all interested in female representation in academic research I would highly recommend checking out the links above. They cover a wide range of fields from biology to education to law to philosophy. Additionally, I enjoyed the news story covering the background behind the publication in this Chronicle of Higher Education article.

Overall I think that it is great documentation of the increase in the involvement of women across academic disciplines over the years. How well are women represented in your favorite specialty field?

Thanks to Dr. Tobias Landberg for sending me the link to this article!


  1. I'm curious if anybody else finds the subdivisions of their field as odd as I do. I can't make any sense of "Cognitive Science" -- certainly, the listing of subfields and sub-subfields isn't something any cognitive scientist would recognize.

    It's an interesting topic, but if the categorization is off, it'll be hard to make any useful conclusions from the work.

  2. For ecology and evolution, the sorting by type of organism was pretty logical. There were some organisms that were missing, like algae, but I think that is due to their specialty journals not being databased in JSTOR. I would agree that the subfields that are topic oriented have some odd categories. I don't usually think of Compositae chromosome number and Grass systematics as natural subfields of Phylogeny.

    They mention using a hierarchical map equation method to classify fields and subfields below one of the graphics. I haven't looked at the technical article, but perhaps this methodology caused the odd groupings. (


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