CAREER BRIEF

Women feature only rarely as first or last authors in leading journals

High impact factor linked with low proportion of female researchers in prominent authorship positions.

Female authors are scarce in the pages of high-impact journals, according to an online analysis (Y. A. Shen et al. Preprint at bioRxiv http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/275362; 2018). Researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle gathered names of first and last authors from papers published between 2005 and 2017 in 15 major science and neuroscience journals, including Nature, Science, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Nature Neuroscience and Neuropsychology Review. Women accounted for roughly 25% of first authors in Nature and Science and just over 35% of first authors in PNAS. Female first authors outnumbered men — by 53% to 47% — in only one journal, Neuropsychology Review. Women represented about 15% of senior or last-author spots in Nature and Science and just under 40% in Neuropsychology Review. The study found an inverse relationship between the prevalence of female authors and the journal’s impact factor: the higher the impact, the lower the proportion of women as first or last authors. Co-author Ione Fine, a neuroscientist, and colleagues suggest that journals could reduce the possibility of bias by adopting mandatory double-blind reviews. Nature Research, which includes all the Nature-branded journals, said that the brand “is committed to gender equality and our journals strive to support women in science”.

Nature 555, 691 (2018)

doi: 10.1038/d41586-018-03804-2
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