Analysing the gender gap in scientific production and performance indicators

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Studying the "Matilda effect" in communication-related research


A study by the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) reveals the existing gender inequality in the exercise of research careers in communication. This work shows the difficulty female researchers currently have in achieving higher levels of visibility and citations.

The article "The Matilda Effect in communication research: The effects of gender and geography on usage and citations across 11 countries" presents empirical research on the gender ratio among the most productive research staff in communication-related disciplines. It has also analysed how gender affects the number of visits and citations of scientific articles. To do so, data from 11 countries and 5,500 male and female researchers in this field was used.

"The need arises from the limited number of studies that have focused on examining the proportion and influence of gender on two of the most relevant indicators of scientific evaluation: visibility and citations. Despite the fact that there is observational evidence that shows that women continue to have structural imbalances in the exercise of their research careers, this work offers empirical evidence that highlights the difficulties for women in academic careers," says Manuel Goyanes, a lecturer in UC3M's Department of Communication and one of the authors of the article.

To carry out this study, the research team compiled information from the Scopus and Scival databases, which contain a list of the most productive authors in different disciplines. The study was limited to research staff in the field of communication in Europe and the United States and the period of analysis was from 2010 to 2019.

The results show that of the 5,500 academics with the highest productivity rates, 3,954 are men and 1,546 are women. When filtered by country, the percentage of men is also significantly higher in each of them, with Germany and Ukraine as the countries with the greatest gender inequalities. The countries with the highest parity are Spain and the United States, although the situation is far from equal.

"The results show that men are still more productive, from which we can conclude that women's views, projects and expectations are overlooked. Women are also under-represented among the most productive elite. This does not correspond to the sociological distribution of the analysed area, where the number of female researchers is greater than that of male researchers and where they are also a majority as first authors in the main communication journals," says Goyanes.

On the other hand, the study shows that the most productive women's articles have greater visibility than those of the most productive men. However, their articles are less cited. "In other words, with an equal number of visits to their articles, women are less cited than men. Assuming that the first step in citing an article is reading it, the most productive women in communication need greater visibility in order to have similar citation levels to men," explains the researcher.

In future lines of research, the aim is to continue analysing the inequalities of women in science, "emphasising these imbalances at different levels, such as access to editorial committees of scientific journals, co-authorship, scientific awards or academic reputation," concludes Manuel Goyanes.

Bibliographic reference:

Rajkˇ, A., Herendy, C., Goyanes, M., & Demeter, M. (2023). The Matilda Effect in Communication Research: The Effects of Gender and Geography on Usage and Citations Across 11 Countries. Communication Research, 00936502221124389.