Female authors draw more student readers than do male authors

Female researchers’ scientific impact might be undervalued by citation metrics in some countries.
Virginia Gewin is a freelance writer in Portland, Oregon.

Search for this author in:

Scientist with microscope

Research by female scientists boasts a strong following among undergraduates.Credit: Getty

Scientific studies published by female authors across 100 topics attract between 2% and 6% more undergraduate student readers in the United States, the United Kingdom, Turkey and Spain than do those by male authors, according to a new study1.

Using Mendeley, a computer program that manages and shares research papers, Mike Thelwall, a cybermetrics researcher at the University of Wolverhampton, UK, collected reader data from the United States, the United Kingdom, Spain, Turkey and India in 2014 for articles in 100 subject categories. He calculated the mean number of readers by gender, field, occupation and career stage (student or a senior faculty member).

The analysis found that female authors attract fewer readers who are senior faculty members in the United States, the United Kingdom and Spain than do male authors. In India, readers at all career stages read more studies by male authors than by female authors.

The findings suggest that female authors might have an unrecognized effect on students’ education. Thelwall cautions early-career scientists, particularly female researchers, to look beyond citations for evidence that their research has a broader impact than that metric indicates.

Nature 565, 126 (2018)

doi: 10.1038/d41586-018-07605-5
Nature Briefing

Sign up for the daily Nature Briefing email newsletter

Stay up to date with what matters in science and why, handpicked from Nature and other publications worldwide.

Sign Up


  1. 1.

    Thelwall, M. J. Altmetrics 1, 3 (2018).

Download references