Gender gap revealed in academic journal submi


image: Fig 2. Average evolution of submissions by field of research and age, the latter variable including authors of the first cohort (≤ 20 years from their first publication) in the first group and older authors in the second. Bars represent standard errors.
to see Continued

Credit: Squazzoni et al., 2021, PLOS ONE, CC-BY 4.0 (

A study of 2,329 academic journals found that during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, fewer manuscripts were submitted by women than by men, and this gender gap was particularly large in the medical field and for women in the early stages of life. careers. Flaminio Squazzoni of the University of Milan, Italy, and colleagues present these results in the open access journal PLOS ONE on October 13, 2021.

Due to its far-reaching effects on society, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in an unusually high number of academic paper submissions. Meanwhile, lockdown policies have forced scholars to take on new family responsibilities, potentially exacerbating known family-related challenges for female scholars. Previous studies have examined this possibility, but the results have been inconsistent.

To help clarify the impact of the pandemic on academic submissions, Squazzoni and his colleagues applied statistical analyzes to submission data from 2,329 journals published by the Elsevier company. They also looked at data on scholars who were asked to review submissions as part of the peer review process. In total, data from over 5 million authors working between February 2018 and May 2020 was analyzed.

Researchers found that between February and May 2020, submissions to Elsevier journals increased by 30% compared to the same period in 2019. However, women submitted fewer manuscripts than men in academic fields, including medicine, life sciences, physical sciences, and social sciences. This gender gap was particularly marked in health and medicine – the field most directly linked to COVID-19 – and for women at the start of their careers.

Meanwhile, for most academic fields, similar proportions of women and men accepted invitations to review manuscripts. However, this was not the case for health and medicine, where women were less involved.

Taken together, these findings suggest that the onset of the pandemic may have fostered a relatively advantageous environment for men in academia. Given the importance of publishing to academic career success, the authors note, the gender deficits observed in this study could potentially have long-term effects that deepen gender inequality in academia.

Bahar Mehmani, Elsevier Reviewer Experience Lead who coordinated the study, adds: “We undertook this collaboration with the research community to create a strong evidence base to investigate critical questions such as how lockdowns during the pandemic have had a global impact on female scholars in different disciplines. This is an integral part of our broader commitment to fostering an inclusive research ecosystem. »

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