Amsterdam, October 27, 2021 – During the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, a study of 2,329 academic journals found that fewer manuscripts were submitted by women than by men, this gap between the sexes being particularly important in the medical field and for women at the beginning of their careers. Researchers responsible for the study included academics and industry professionals from the University of Milan, Italy, and Elsevier, a world leader in research publication.
Flaminio Squazzoni, professor of sociology in the Department of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Milan and his colleagues, alongside Bahar Mehmani, Reviewer Experience Lead of Elsevier, present these results in the open access journal PLOS ONE.
Professor Squazzoni, who led the study, explained: “As a group of Italian academics living in Lombardy, in northern Italy, one of the regions hardest hit by COVID-19, we felt urgent pressures to respond to this global crisis, and designing a large-scale study on the effect of the pandemic on academics seemed one of the most valuable things we could do. “
Due to its far-reaching effects on society, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in an unusually high number of scholarly article submissions. Meanwhile, foreclosure policies forced academics to take on new or existing family responsibilities, potentially exacerbating known family challenges, especially for women in academia.
Previous studies have examined this possibility, but the results have been inconsistent.
Bahar Mehmani, Elsevier’s Evaluator Experiment Manager, who coordinated the study, said: “We undertook this collaboration with the research community to create a strong evidence base to investigate critical questions such as how lockdown measures during the pandemic impacted women academics globally in different disciplines. . It’s an integral part of our broader commitment to driving an inclusive research ecosystem. “
To help clarify the impact of the pandemic on academic submissions, Professor Squazzoni and colleagues applied statistical analyzes to submission data from 2,329 journals published by Elsevier. They also reviewed data on academics who were invited to review submissions as part of the peer review process.
In total, data on more than 5 million authors working between February 2018 and May 2020 were collected and analyzed.
Between February and May 2020, results show submissions to Elsevier journals increased by 30%, compared to the same period in 2019. However, women submitted fewer manuscripts than men in all academic fields, including medicine, life sciences, physical sciences and social sciences. This gender gap was particularly significant in the fields of health and medicine, the field most directly linked to COVID-19, and for women early in their careers.
For most academic fields, similar proportions of women and men have accepted invitations to review manuscripts. However, this was not the case for health and medicine, where women were less involved.
Overall, these results suggest that the onset of the pandemic may have fostered a relatively beneficial environment for men in academia. Given the importance of publishing to the career success of academics, the authors note that the gender deficits seen in this study could potentially have long-term effects that would exacerbate gender inequalities in academia.