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Gender differences in research performance within and between countries: Italy vs Norway

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In this study, the scientific performance of Italian and Norwegian university professors is analysed using bibliometric indicators. The study is based on over 36,000 individuals and their publication output during the period 2011–2015. Applying a multidimensional indicator in which several aspects of the research performance are captured, we find large differences in the performance of men and women. These gender differences are evident across all analysed levels, such as country, field, and academic position. However, most of the gender differences can be explained by the tails of the distributions—in particular, there is a much higher proportion of men among the top 10 % performing scientists. For the remaining 90 % of the population, the gender differences are practically non-existent. The results of the two countries, which differ in terms of the societal role of women, are contrasting. Further, we discuss possible biases that are intrinsic in quantitative performance indicators, which might disfavour female researchers.
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... Following on our previous studies on the comparison of research productivity of Italian and Norwegian academics D'Angelo, 2020 and2021), in this work we present a methodology to measure the single components of research productivity, and apply it to further scan and contrast the two countries' academic systems. ...
... In order to follow on the above mentioned previous studies of ours and their findings D'Angelo, 2020 and2021), we observe the research activity of Italian and Norwegian professors in the same period, 2011-2015. ...
... For example, a study of publication patterns in social sciences and humanities in eight European countries, showed large differences across fields but also across nations (Kulczycki et al., 2018). In addition, publication output has been shown to be influenced by individual variables such as gender (Sugimoto, Lariviere, Ni, Gingras, & Cronin, 2013;Elsevier, 2020;Abramo, Aksnes, & D'Angelo, 2021), age (Levin & Stephan, 1989;Kyvik, 1990;Gingras, Larivière, Macaluso, & Robitaille, 2008;, and academic rank (Abramo, D'Angelo, & Di Costa, 2011;Blackburn, Behymer, & Hall, 1978;Ventura & Mombrù, 2006). Thus, further research would be required in order to provide better fundaments for cross-national analyses along this dimension of performance. ...
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In this study we are analysing the research performance of Italian and Norwegian professors using constituent components of the Fractional Scientific Strength (FSS) indicator. The main focus is on differences across fields in publication output and citation impact. The overall performance (FSS) of the two countries, which differ considerably in research size and profile, is remarkedly similar. However, an in-depth analysis shows that there are large underlying performance differences. An average Italian professor publishes more papers than a Norwegian, while the citation impact of the research output is higher for the Norwegians. In addition, at field level the pattern varies along both dimensions, and we analyse in which fields each country have their relative strengths. Overall, this study contributes to further insights on how the research performance of different countries may be analysed and compared, to inform research policy. Peer Review https://publons.com/publon/10.1162/qss_a_00198
... Women's participation and representation in science differ between countries. For example, Abramo et al. (2021) found a larger gender gap in Italy than in Norway, which the authors attributed to stronger societal engagement of women in family and domestic responsibilities in Italy than in Norway. Tao et al. (2017) found that women in the US published more than men in engineering and less in science while in China they found no differences between men and women in science publications but only in engineering, where women published more. ...
... Other studies have found that the lower representation of women among authors might be a consequence of women being more likely to leave academic careers due to persistent traditional gender roles (Abramo et al., 2021;Holman et al., 2018;Ledin et al., 2007;Shamseer et al., 2021;Van Arensbergen et al., 2012), in particular, in many African societies or since women are more likely to get caught up in intermediate employment levels like administrative and or teaching commitments (Sheltzer & Smith, 2014). However, this effect is also noticeable in other parts of the world including Europe and the US, where women are more likely to reduce time devoted for research under increasingly challenging situations such as the COVID-19 pandemic (Squazzoni et al., 2020;Viglione, 2020;Vincent-Lamarre et al., 2020). ...
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Female scientists and researchers with diverse cultural backgrounds, especially of the Global South, are underrepresented in scientific systems. This is also the case for land use science and even for research teams researching in Global South countries. To assess trends in gender parity, ethnic diversity and intersectionality in this field, we conducted a meta-analysis based on systematic literature review that included 316,390 peer-reviewed journal articles. We found that 27% of all authors between 2000–2021 represented women. Ethnicity representation was biased towards White researchers (62%) followed by Asian (30%), Hispanic (6%) and Black (2%) researchers. Intersection of inequalities further underrepresented Black and Hispanic women when author positions were considered, giving Black women 0.6% chance of becoming first authors in land use science in comparison to 19.3% chance of White women. Supportive actions to empower women are needed to reduce intersectional inequalities and to achieve the sustainable development goals.
... Although progress in the representation of women in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine (STEMM) is slow to improve, the number of women holding STEMM faculty positions has remained stagnant or declined (1,2). In Italy and Norway, for example, females are underrepresented in top research positions despite performing as well as their male counterparts (3). Gender inequality in scientific careers has been demonstrated by differences in productivity, citation, and salary metrics (4). ...
... The COVID-19 pandemic outbreak exacerbated gender disparities, prompting fears of women leaving science [16]. Gender inequality in academia is an international issue that spans scientists' lifetime, derives from socio-cultural and institutional antecedents, and has harmful consequences for women's professional and personal lives [17][18][19]. Literature identifies three key social and environmental factors that harm women's careers in STEM: cultural socialization processes and stereotypes, chilly academic environments, and socially constructed gender roles [18,20,21]. We briefly describe these barriers and how COVID-19 policies have exacerbated them. ...
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Stay-at-home-orders, online learning, and work from home policies are some of the responses governments, universities, and other institutions adopted to slow the spread of COVID-19. However, research shows these measures have increased pre-existing gender disparities in the workplace. The working conditions for women during the pandemic worsened due to increased family care responsibilities and unequal distribution of domestic labor. In the academy, working from home has resulted in reduced research time and increased teaching and family care responsibilities, with a larger proportion of that burden falling to women. We investigate the persistence of gender inequity among academic scientists resulting from university COVID-19 responses over time. We draw on two surveys administered in May 2020 and May 2021 to university-based biologists, biochemists, and civil and environmental engineers, to analyze how the pandemic response has disproportionately impacted women in academia and the endurance of those inequities. Results show significantly greater negative impacts from the pandemic on women’s research activities and work-life balance, compared to men. We conclude by discussing the implications of our results, and the need for the academy to better predict and adjust to the gender disparities its policies create.
... No other analysed predictors exerted significant control on citations (Fig. 2a). Among others, the lack of effect of gender may come as a surprise, given that the discourse on gender biases is timely (Abramo et al., 2021;AlShebli et al., 2020;Casad et al., 2021;Davies et al., 2021;Holman & Morandin, 2019;Kwon, 2022). Note that the effect was in the expected direction (negative), but only weakly significant as the confident interval overlapped zero (Fig. 2a). ...
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Citations remain a prime, yet controversial, measure of academic performance. Ideally, how often a paper is cited should solely depend on the quality of the science reported therein. However, non-scientific factors, including structural elements (e.g., length of abstract, number of references) or attributes of authors (e.g., prestige and gender), may all influence citation outcomes. Knowing the predicted effect of these features on citations might make it possible to 'game the system' of citation counts when writing a paper. We conducted a meta-analysis to build a quantitative understanding of the effect of similar non-scientific features on the impact of scientific articles in terms of citations. We showed that article length, number of authors, author experience and their collaboration network, Impact Factors , availability as open access, online sharing, different referencing practice, and number of figures all exerted a positive influence on citations. These patterns were consistent across most disciplines. We also documented temporal trends towards a recent increase in the effect of journal Impact Factor and number of authors on citations. We suggest that our approach can be used as a benchmark to monitor the influence of these effects over time, minimising the influence of non-scientific features as a means to game the system of citation counts, and thus enhancing their usefulness as a measure of scientific quality.
... 18 Second, considering that peer reviewers are usually senior researchers or leaders in their fields, 18 the long-standing under-representation of women in senior academic roles may leave editors with seemingly little choice but to invite men to peer-review manuscripts. 19 This is supported by our finding that women's representation as peer reviewers was lower in journals with higher impact factor, which are more likely to acquire peer reviewers who are leading experts in their field. Third, it is possible women face barriers that prevent them from accepting invitations to take part in the peerreview process due to competing demands. ...
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Objectives: To investigate whether there is an association between women's representation as peer reviewers and editors of medical journals. Methods: In this cross-sectional study, the gender of editors and peer reviewers of journals of the British Medical Journal Publishing Group (BMJ-PG) in 2020 was determined based on given names. Trends over time were analysed for the BMJ between 2009 and 2017. Results: Overall, this study included 47 of the 74 journals in the BMJ-PG. Women accounted for 30.2% of the 42 539 peer reviewers, with marked variation from 8% to 50%. Women represented 33.4% of the 555 editors, including 19.2% of the 52 editors-in-chief. There was a moderate positive correlation between the percentage of women as editors and as reviewers (Spearman correlation coefficient 0.590; p<0.0001). The percentage of women as editors, excluding editors-in-chief, was higher when the editor-in-chief was a woman than a man (53.3% vs 29.2%, respectively; p<0.0001). Likewise, the percentage of women as peer reviewers was higher in journals that had a woman as editor-in-chief in comparison with a man (32.0% vs 26.4%, respectively; p<0.0001). There was a slight increase in the percentage of women as peer reviewers from 27.3% in 2009 to 29.7% in 2017 in the BMJ. Conclusions: Women account for less than one in three peer reviewers of medical journals. Women's representation as peer reviewers is higher in journals with higher percentage of women as editors or with a woman as editor-in-chief. It is, thus, imperative to address the persisting gender gap at all levels of the publishing system.
... To answer these questions, the research examines the publications of Russian scholars as it is the most critical indicator of research production (Ramsden, 1994). There is a growing body of research describing gender disparities in science by analyzing academics' research production indicators (see, e.g., Larivière et al., 2013;Paul-Hus et al., 2015;Nielsen, 2016a;Bendels et al., 2018;Abramo et al., 2021). Recent bibliometric studies have displayed three different patterns relevant in the context of academic production indicators through a gender lens. ...
Article
The problem of gender disparities in various areas of society has long been well known and identified in most countries. Russian academia is no exception. This paper describes the representation of Russian men and women authors in terms of research production. The analysis is based on 121,953 papers with at least one Russian author, covered by Web of Science (WoS) and published between 2017 and 2019. The results demonstrate that there are still evident signs of gender disparities. Women remain underrepresented in their overall presence and performance almost in all disciplines and generally in academia. In all research fields, women’s mean number of publications is lower than analogous indicators for men. Although some areas have relative gender parity and even more women authors, the gap between both genders remains stable for most disciplines. As a result, despite some improvements in women’s research performance, Russian academia is the case, demonstrating that without a gender policy in both Russian political and science systems, it is complicated to eliminate gender inequality.
... Individual productivity is highly skewed, with very few academics producing the bulk of publications. Dividing researchers into three groups-prolific, regular, and sporadic, for example-might provide a more meaningful comparison of "typical" men and women because the most highly prolific researchers tend to be men, and their exceptionally high scores have a significant impact on the average for all men (Abramo et al., 2021). And third, we could consider leaves of absence and part-time positions. ...
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Many studies on research productivity and performance suggest that men consistently outperform women. However, women and men are spread unevenly throughout the academy both horizontally (e.g., by scientific field) and vertically (e.g., by academic position), suggesting that aggregate numbers (comparing all men with all women) may reflect the different publication practices in different corners of the academy rather than gender per se. We use Norwegian bibliometric data to examine how the “what” (which publication practices are measured) and the “who” (how the population sample is disaggregated) matter in assessing apparent gender differences among academics in Norway. We investigate four clusters of indicators related to publication volume, publication type, authorship, and impact or quality (12 indicators in total) and explore how disaggregating the population by scientific field, institutional affiliation, academic position, and age changes the gender gaps that appear at the aggregate level. For most (but not all) indicators, we find that gender differences disappear or are strongly reduced after disaggregation. This suggests a composition effect, whereby apparent gender differences in productivity can to a considerable degree be ascribed to the composition of the group examined and the different publication practices common to specific groups. We argue that aggregate figures can exaggerate some gender disparities while obscuring others. Our study illustrates the situated nature of research productivity and the importance of comparing men and women within similar academic positions or scientific fields—of comparing apples with apples—when using bibliometric indicators to identify gender disparities in research productivity.
... As women often care for children and the elderly as well as teaching, article-writing might be the first goal to suffer. Abramo et al. (2021), for instance, have shown that societal differences between Italy and Norway, with Italian female academics more involved in family commitments than their North European colleagues, have resulted in rather different academic performances. ...
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This article adds a new case-study to the existing empirical analyses of gender differences in academic journals. The record of South European Society and Politics confirms the established pattern of a gender gap in published output, with its source at the submissions stage. It also reveals gendered preferences with regard to authorship styles, highlighting a pattern of greater individualism and homophily for men and a more collaborative picture for female scholars; in particular, we found that co-authoring increases women’s publication footprint. Moving on to the journal’s gatekeepers, we also discovered gender imbalance. An investigation of rejection rates finds that the predominantly female editorial team made gender-neutral choices during the initial editorial review of submissions, but selected overwhelmingly male referees. While women are less successful than men in the blind peer review process, this is overshadowed by the difference in submission rates. Potential explanations for the latter were considered, including lesser access to academic networks as well as the “impostor phenomenon”, which afflicts women more than men. The article concludes that addressing the journal publishing gender gap requires broader changes in academic life.
... It seems that men tend to cite their papers 70 percent more than women ( King et al., 2017;Mishra, Fegley, Diesner, & Torvik, 2018 ). They also produce more papers, and so have more to cite (Sugimoto, Lariviere, Ni, Gingras, & Cronin, 2013 ;Elsevier, 2020 ), and this certainly holds true in Italy ( Abramo, Aksnes & D'Angelo, 2020 ). For Denmark, Nielsen (2016) did not detect statistically significant differences in self-citation rates between men and women, except in the medical sciences. ...
Article
We investigate the changes in the self-citation behavior of Italian professors following the introduction of a citation-based incentive scheme, for national accreditation to academic appointments. Previous contributions on self-citation behavior have either focused on small samples or relied on simple models, not controlling for enough confounding factors. The present work adopts a complex statistics model implemented on bibliometric individual data for over 15,000 Italian professors. Controlling for a number of covariates (number of citable papers published by the author; presence of international authors; number of co-authors; degree of the professor's specialization), the average increase in the number of self-citations per paper following introduction of the national scientific accreditation (ASN) is of 9.5%. The increase is common to all disciplines and academic ranks, albeit with diverse magnitude. Moreover, the increase is sensitive to the relative incentive, depending on the status of the scholar with respect to the ASN. A further analysis shows that there is much heterogeneity in the individual patterns of self-citing behavior, albeit with very few outliers. Link to editorial pdf (up to 17.10.2021): https://authors.elsevier.com/c/1dfFK6EAijv~io
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In science, self-citation is often interpreted as an act of self-promotion that (artificially) boosts the visibility of one’s prior work in the short term, which could then inflate professional authority in the long term. Recently, in light of research on the gender gap in self-promotion, two large-scale studies of publications examine if women self-cite less than men. But they arrive at conflicting conclusions; one concludes yes whereas the other, no. We join the debate with an original study of 36 cohorts of life scientists (1970–2005) followed through 2015 (or death or retirement). We track not only the rate of self-citation per unit of past productivity but also the likelihood of self-citing intellectually distant material and the rate of return on self-citations with respect to a host of major career outcomes, including grants, future citations, and job changes. With comprehensive, longitudinal data, we find no evidence whatsoever of a gender gap in self-citation practices or returns. Men may very well be more aggressive self-promoters than women, but this dynamic does not manifest in our sample with respect to self-citation practices. Implications of our null findings are discussed, particularly with respect to gender inequality in scientific careers more broadly.
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This is the first ever attempt of application in a country other than Italy of the output-to-input indicator FSS, to assess and compare the research performance of professors and universities, within and between countries. A special attention has been devoted to the presentation of the methodology developed to set up a common field classification scheme of professors, and to overcome the limited availability of comparable input data. Results of the comparison between countries, carried out in the 2011–2015 period, show similar average performances of professors, but noticeable differences in the distributions, whereby Norwegian professors are more concentrated in the tails. Norway shows notable higher performance in Mathematics and Earth and Space Sciences, while Italy in Biomedical Research and Engineering.
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Significance Empirical evidence suggests significant gender differences in the total productivity and impact of academic careers across science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Paradoxically, the increase in the number of women academics over the past 60 years has increased these gender differences. Yet, we find that men and women publish a comparable number of papers per year and have equivalent career-wise impact for the same total number of publications. This suggests the productivity and impact of gender differences are explained by different publishing career lengths and dropout rates. This comprehensive picture of gender inequality in academic publishing can help rephrase the conversation around the sustainability of women’s careers in academia, with important consequences for institutions and policy makers.
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Whether gender bias contributes to women’s under-representation in scientific fields is still controversial. Past research is limited by relying on explicit questionnaire ratings in mock-hiring scenarios, thereby ignoring the potential role of implicit gender bias in the real world. We examine the interactive effect of explicit and implicit gender biases on promotion decisions made by scientific evaluation committees representing the whole scientific spectrum in the course of an annual nationwide competition for elite research positions. Findings reveal that committees with strong implicit gender biases promoted fewer women at year 2 (when committees were not reminded of the study) relative to year 1 (when the study was announced) if those committees did not explicitly believe that external barriers hold women back. When committees believed that women face external barriers, implicit biases did not predict selecting more men over women. This finding highlights the importance of educating evaluative committees about gender biases.
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A number of studies suggest that scientific papers with women in leading-author positions attract fewer citations than those with men in leading-author positions. We report the results of a matched case-control study of 1,269,542 papers in selected areas of medicine published between 2008 and 2014. We find that papers with female authors are, on average, cited between 6.5% and 12.6% less than papers with male authors. However, the standardized mean differences are very small, and the percentage overlaps between the distributions for male and female authors are extensive. Adjusting for self-citations, number of authors, international collaboration and journal prestige, we find near-identical per-paper citation impact for women and men in first and last author positions, with self-citations and journal prestige accounting for most of the small average differences. Our study demonstrates the importance of focusing greater attention to within-group variability and between-group overlap of distributions when interpreting and reporting results of gender-based comparisons of citation impact.
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This paper addresses gender differences in international research collaboration measured through international co-authorship. The study is based on a dataset consisting of 5600 Norwegian researchers and their publication output during a 3-year period (44,000 publications). Two different indicators are calculated. First, the share of researchers that have been involved in international collaboration as measured by co-authorship, and second, the share of their publications with international co-authorship. The study shows that the field of research is by far the most important factor influencing the propensity to collaborate internationally. There are large differences from humanities on the one hand, where international collaboration in terms of co-authorship is less common, to the natural sciences on the other, where such collaboration is very frequent. On an overall level, we find distinct gender differences in international research collaboration in Norway in the favour of men. However, men and women are not equally distributed across fields and there are relatively more female researchers in fields where the international collaboration rates generally are lower. When the data are analysed by scientific field, academic position, and publication productivity of the researchers, the gender differences in the propensity to collaborate with colleagues in other countries are minor only, and not statistically significant. Concerning gender inequality in science, the main challenge seems to be the lower productivity level of female researchers, which obviously hinders their academic career development. Differences in international collaboration are unlikely to be an important factor in this respect, at least not in the Norwegian research context analysed in this study.
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Purpose: The purpose of this study is to assess the coverage of the scientific literature in Scopus and Web of Science from the perspective of research evaluation. Design/methodology/approach: The academic communities of Norway have agreed on certain criteria for what should be included as original research publications in research evaluation and funding contexts. These criteria have been applied since 2004 in a comprehensive bibliographic database called the Norwegian Science Index (NSI). The relative coverages of Scopus and Web of Science are compared with regard to publication type, field of research and language. Findings: Our results show that Scopus covers 72 percent of the total Norwegian scientific and scholarly publication output in 2015 and 2016, while the corresponding figure for Web of Science Core Collection is 69 percent. The coverages are most comprehensive in medicine and health (89 and 87 percent) and in the natural sciences and technology (85 and 84 percent). The social sciences (48 percent in Scopus and 40 percent in Web of Science Core Collection) and particularly the humanities (27 and 23 percent) are much less covered in the two international data sources. Research limitation: Comparing with data from only one country is a limitation of the study, but the criteria used to define a country's scientific output as well as the identification of patterns of field-dependent partial representations in Scopus and Web of Science should be recognizable and useful also for other countries. Originality/value: The novelty of this study is the criteria-based approach to studying coverage problems in the two data sources.
Sweden is among the countries with the highest per cent of women university Vice Chancellors in Europe. In She Figures 2012 the average proportion of female Vice Chancellors in the 27 European Union countries is estimated to be 10 per cent. In Sweden the number is much higher: 43 per cent. Swedish higher education management has witnessed a demographic feminization during the last 20 years. Which factors can explain that women have been so successful in gaining access to these senior management positions in Swedish academia? This paper discusses the demographic feminization, drawing on qualitative interviews with women in senior academic positions in Swedish higher education. The paper suggests that women’s position in higher education management can be analysed using the concept “glass cliff”. This metaphor describes a phenomenon when women are more likely to be appointed to precarious leadership roles in situations of turbulence and problematic organizational circumstances. The findings illustrate that women have been allowed to enter into senior academic management at the same time as these positions decline in status, merit and prestige and become more time-consuming and harder to combine with a successful scholarly career.
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Efforts to combat continuing gender inequalities in academia need to be informed by evidence about where differences occur. Citations are relevant as potential evidence in appointment and promotion decisions, but it is unclear whether there have been historical gender differences in average citation impact that might explain the current shortfall of senior female academics. This study investigates the evolution of gender differences in citation impact 1996–2018 for six million articles from seven large English‐speaking nations: Australia, Canada, Ireland, Jamaica, New Zealand, UK, and the USA. The results show that a small female citation advantage has been the norm over time for all these countries except the USA, where there has been no practical difference. The female citation advantage is largest, and statistically significant in most years, for Australia and the UK. This suggests that any academic bias against citing female‐authored research cannot explain current employment inequalities. Nevertheless, comparisons using recent citation data, or avoiding it altogether, during appointments or promotion may disadvantage females in some countries by underestimating the likely greater impact of their work, especially in the long term.