Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Citation inequity and gendered citation practices in contemporary physics

Abstract

The under-attribution of women’s contributions to scientific scholarship is well known and well studied. One measure of this under-attribution is the citation gap between men and women: the under-citation of papers authored by women relative to expected rates coupled with an over-citation of papers authored by men relative to expected rates. Here we explore this citation gap in contemporary physics. We find a global bias wherein papers authored by women are significantly under-cited, and papers authored by men are significantly over-cited. Moreover, we find that citation behaviour varies along several dimensions, such that imbalances differ according to who is citing, where they are citing and what they are citing. Specifically, citation imbalance in favour of man-authored papers is highest for papers authored by men, papers published in general physics journals and papers for which citing authors probably have less domain or author familiarity. Our results suggest that although deciding which papers to cite is an individual choice, the cumulative effects of these choices needlessly harm a subset of scholars. We discuss several strategies for the mitigation of these effects, including conscious behavioural changes at the individual, journal and community levels.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

$32.00

All prices are NET prices.

Fig. 1: Time-varying demographics of published papers according to author gender category.
Fig. 2: Over-/under-citation of physics papers is imbalanced with respect to author gender category.
Fig. 3: Citation behaviour varies across time and according to citing author gender category.
Fig. 4: Citation behaviour varies according to citer proximity to cited work.
Fig. 5: Additional correlates of citation behaviour.

Data availability

The data generated and analysed for this study are available in an Open Science Framework repository and can be accessed at https://osf.io/p5cb7/.

Code availability

The code used to generate Figs. 1–5 can be accessed at https://osf.io/p5cb7/, and the code used for the data processing and analyses presented in this study can be accessed at https://github.com/jdwor/gendercitation.

References

  1. Gage, M. J. Woman as Inventor; Issued Under the Auspices of the New York State Woman Suffrage Association (F. A. Darling, 1870).

    Google Scholar 

  2. Rossiter, M. W. The Matthew Matilda effect in science. Soc. Stud. Sci. 23, 325–341 (1993).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Phillips, J. & Hausbeck, K. Just beneath the surface: Rereading geology, rescripting the knowledge-power nexus. Womenas Stud. Q. 28, 181–202 (2000).

    Google Scholar 

  4. Caplar, N., Tacchella, S. & Birrer, S. Quantitative evaluation of gender bias in astronomical publications from citation counts. Nat. Astron. 1, 0141 (2017).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  5. Ross, M. B. et al. Women are credited less in science than are men. Nature 608, 135–145 (2022).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  6. Knobloch-Westerwick, S., Glynn, C. J. & Huge, M. The Matilda effect in science communication: An experiment on gender bias in publication quality perceptions and collaboration interest. Sci. Commun. 35, 603–625 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Ni, C., Smith, E., Yuan, H., Larivière, V. & Sugimoto, C. R. The gendered nature of authorship. Sci. Adv. 7, eabe4639 (2021).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  8. van den Brink, M. & Benschop, Y. Gender practices in the construction of academic excellence: Sheep with five legs. Organization 19, 507–524 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Moss-Racusin, C. A., Dovidio, J. F., Brescoll, V. L., Graham, M. J. & Handelsman, J. Science faculty’s subtle gender biases favor male students. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 109, 16474–16479 (2012).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  10. Bloodhart, B., Balgopal, M. M., Casper, A. M. A., Sample, McMeeking. & Fischer, E. V. Outperforming yet undervalued: Undergraduate women in STEM. PLoS ONE 15, e0234685 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Lincoln, A. E., Pincus, S., Koster, J. B. & Leboy, P. S. The Matilda effect in science: Awards and prizes in the US, 1990s and 2000s. Soc. Stud. Sci. 42, 307–320 (2012).

  12. Lunnemann, P., Jensen, M. H. & Jauffred, L. Gender bias in Nobel prizes. Palgrave Commun. 5, 17–20 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Hengel, E. Publishing While Female: Are Women Held to Higher Standards? Evidence From Peer Review 80–90 (CEPR, 2020).

  14. Holman, L., Stuart-Fox, D. & Hauser, C. E. The gender gap in science: How long until women are equally represented?. PLoS Biol. 16, e2004956 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Larivière, V., Ni, C., Gingras, Y., Cronin, B. & Sugimoto, C. R. Bibliometrics: Global gender disparities in science. Nature 504, 211–213 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Ghiasi, G., Larivière, V. & Sugimoto, C. R. On the compliance of women engineers with a gendered scientific system. PLoS ONE 10, e0145931 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Dworkin, J. D. et al. The extent and drivers of gender imbalance in neuroscience reference lists. Nat. Neurosci. 23, 918–926 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Wang, X. et al. Gendered citation practices in the field of communication. Ann. Int. Commun. Assoc. 45, 134–153 (2021).

    Google Scholar 

  19. Dion, M. L., Sumner, J. L. & Mitchell, S. M. L. Gendered Citation patterns across political science and social science methodology fields. Polit. Anal. 26, 312–327 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Maliniak, D., Powers, R. & Walter, B. F. The gender citation gap in international relations. Int. Organ. 67, 889–922 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Mitchell, S. M., Lange, S. & Brus, H. Gendered citation patterns in international relations journals. Int. Stud. Perspect. 14, 485–492 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Fulvio, J. M., Akinnola, I. & Postle, B. R. Gender (im)balance in citation practices in cognitive neuroscience. J. Cogn. Neurosci. 33, 3–7 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Huang, J., Gates, A. J., Sinatra, R. & Barabási, A. L. Historical comparison of gender inequality in scientific careers across countries and disciplines. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 117, 4609–4616 (2020).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  24. Chatterjee, P. & Werner, R. M. Gender disparity in citations in high-impact journal articles. JAMA Netw. Open 4, e2114509 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Damschen, E. I. et al. Visibility matters: Increasing knowledge of women's contributions to ecology. Front. Ecol. Environ. 3, 212–219 (2005).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Wood, S. et al. A scientist like me: Demographic analysis of biology textbooks reveals both progress and long-term lags. Proc. R. Soc. B 287, 20200877 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Simpson, D. Y., Beatty, A. E. & Ballen, C. J. Teaching between the lines: Representation in science textbooks. Trends Ecol. Evol. 36, 4–8 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Carli, L. L., Alawa, L., Lee, Y. A., Zhao, B. & Kim, E. Stereotypes about gender and science: Women ≠ scientists. Psychol. Women Q. 40, 244–260 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. McKinnon, M. & O’Connell, C. Perceptions of stereotypes applied to women who publicly communicate their STEM work. Human. Soc. Sci. Commun. 7, 160 (2020).

    Google Scholar 

  30. Good, J. J., Woodzicka, J. A. & Wingfield, L. C. The effects of gender stereotypic and counter-stereotypic textbook images on science performance. J. Soc. Psychol. 150, 132–147 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Schinske, J. N., Perkins, H., Snyder, A. & Wyer, M. Scientist spotlight homework assignments shift students’ stereotypes of scientists and enhance science identity in a diverse introductory science class. CBE Life Sci. Educ. https://doi.org/10.1187/cbe.16-01-0002 (2016).

  32. Cheryan, S., Master, A. & Meltzoff, A. N. Cultural stereotypes as gatekeepers: Increasing girls’ interest in computer science and engineering by diversifying stereotypes. Front. Psychol. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00049 (2015)..

  33. Sue, D. W. (ed.) Microaggressions and Marginality: Manifestation, Dynamics, and Impact (John Wiley & Sons, 2010).

  34. Perry, I. Post-intent racism: A new framework for an old problem. Natl Black Law J. 19, 113–148 (2006).

    Google Scholar 

  35. Kendi, I. X. How to Be an Antiracist (One World, 2019).

    Google Scholar 

  36. Friedlaender, C. On microaggressions: Cumulative harm and individual responsibility. Hypatia 33, 5–21 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Editors, N. N. Widening the scope of diversity. Nat. Neurosci. 23, 903–903 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Kullmann, D. M. Editorial. Brain 143, 715–715 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Fairhall, A. L. & Marder, E. Acknowledging female voices. Nat. Neurosci. 23, 904–905 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Postle, B. R. Statement from the incoming editor-in-chief. J. Cogn. Neurosci. 33, 1–2 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Rowson, B. et al. Citation diversity statement in BMES journals. Ann. Biomed. Eng. 49, 947–949 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Sweet, D. J. New at cell press: The inclusion and diversity statement. Cell 184, 1–2 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Zurn, P., Bassett, D. S. & Rust, N. C. The citation diversity statement: A practice of transparency, a way of life. Trends Cogn. Sci. 24, 669–672 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Davies, S. W. et al. Promoting inclusive metrics of success and impact to dismantle a discriminatory reward system in science. PLoS Biol. 19, e3001282 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Pierce, S. K., Schwartzberg, P. L., Shah, N. N. & Taylor, N. Women in immunology: 2020 and beyond. Nat. Immunol. 21, 254–258 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Llorens, A. et al. Gender bias in academia: A lifetime problem that needs solutions. Neuron 109, 2047–2074 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Porter, A. M. & Ivie, R. Women in Physics and Astronomy (American Institute of Physics Statistical Research Center, 2019).

  48. Skibba, R. Women in physics. Nat. Rev. Phys. 1, 298–300 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. Pilcher, J. Names and ‘doing gender’: How forenames and surnames contribute to gender identities, difference, and inequalities. Sex Roles 77, 812–822 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. Zurn, P., Teich, E. G., Simon, S. C., Kim, J. Z. & Bassett, D. S. Supporting academic equity in physics through citation diversity. Commun. Phys. https://doi.org/10.1038/s42005-022-00999-9 (in the press).

  51. Cislak, A., Formanowicz, M. & Saguy, T. Bias against research on gender bias. Scientometrics 115, 189–200 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. Handley, I. M., Brown, E. R., Moss-Racusin, C. A. & Smith, J. L. Quality of evidence revealing subtle gender biases in science is in the eye of the beholder. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 112, 13201–6 (2015).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  53. Begeny, C. T., Ryan, M. K., Moss-Racusin, C. A. & Ravetz, G. In some professions, women have become well represented, yet gender bias persists-perpetuated by those who think it is not happening. Sci. Adv. 6, eaba7814 (2020).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  54. Oudyk, K. et al. Cleanbibimpact: Do papers with citation diversity statements have more gender-balanced reference lists? Brainhack Global 2020 (15 February 2021); https://brainhack.org/global2020/project/project_124/

  55. Postle, B. & Fulvio, J. One-year update from the Editor-in-Chief. J. Cogn. Neurosci. https://doi.org/10.1162/jocn_e_01799 (2021).

  56. Zhou, D. et al. dalejn/cleanbib: v1.1.1. Zenodo https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.4104748 (2020).

  57. Krawczyk, M. & Smyk, M. Author’s gender affects rating of academic articles: Evidence from an incentivized, deception-free laboratory experiment. Eur. Econ. Rev. 90, 326–335 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  58. McPherson, M., Smith-Lovin, L. & Cook, J. M. Birds of a feather: Homophily in social networks. Annu. Rev. Sociol. 27, 415–444 (2001).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  59. Wang, Y. S., Lee, C. J., West, J. D., Bergstrom, C. T. & Erosheva, E. A.Gender-based homophily in collaborations across a heterogeneous scholarly landscape. Preprint at https://arxiv.org/abs/1909.01284 (2019).

  60. Holman, L. & Morandin, C. Researchers collaborate with same-gendered colleagues more often than expected across the life sciences. PLoS ONE 14, 26–29 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  61. Kwiek, M. & Roszka, W. Gender-based homophily in research: A large-scale study of man-woman collaboration. J. Informetr. 15, 101171 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  62. Ghiasi, G., Mongeon, P., Sugimoto, C. R. & Larivière, V. Gender homophily in citations. In 23rd International Conference on Science and Technology Indicators (eds Costas, R. et al.) 1519–1525 (Centre for Science and Technology Studies (CWTS), 2018); https://hdl.handle.net/1887/65291

  63. Nettasinghe, B., Alipourfard, N., Krishnamurthy, V. & Lerman, K. Emergence of structural inequalities in scientific citation networks. Preprint at https://arxiv.org/abs/2103.10944 (2021).

  64. Isbell, L. A., Young, T. P. & Harcourt, A. H. Stag parties linger: Continued gender bias in a female-rich scientific discipline. PLoS ONE 7, 2–5 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  65. Nittrouer, C. L. et al. Gender disparities in colloquium speakers at top universities. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 115, 104–108 (2018).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  66. Belle, D., Smith-Doerr, L. & O'Brien, L. M. Gendered networks: Professional connections of science and engineering faculty. Adv. Gend. Res. 19, 153–175 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  67. Atzmueller, M. & Lemmerich, F. Homophily at academic conferences. In WWW ’18: Companion Proceedings of the The Web Conference 2018 109–110 (ACM Digital Library, 2018).

  68. Gallotti, R. & De Domenico, M. Effects of homophily and academic reputation in the nomination and selection of Nobel laureates. Sci. Rep. 9, 17304 (2019).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  69. Helmer, M., Schottdorf, M., Neef, A. & Battaglia, D. Gender bias in scholarly peer review. eLife https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.21718 (2017).

  70. Greenberg, J. & Mollick, E. Activist choice homophily and the crowdfunding of female founders. Admin. Sci. Q. 62, 341–374 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  71. Bertolero, M. A. et al. Racial and ethnic imbalance in neuroscience reference lists and intersections with gender. Preprint at bioRxiv https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.10.12.336230 (2020).

  72. Chakravartty, P., Kuo, R., Grubbs, V. & McIlwain, C. #CommunicationSoWhite. J. Commun. 68, 254–266 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  73. Sheltzer, J. M. & Smith, J. C. Elite male faculty in the life sciences employ fewer women. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 111, 10107–10112 (2014).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  74. Clauset, A., Arbesman, S. & Larremore, D. B. Systematic inequality and hierarchy in faculty hiring networks. Sci. Adv. 1, e1400005 (2015).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  75. Way, S. F., Morgan, A. C., Larremore, D. B. & Clauset, A. Productivity, prominence, and the effects of academic environment. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 116, 10729–10733 (2019).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  76. Cech, E. A. & Waidzunas, T. J. Navigating the heteronormativity of engineering: The experiences of lesbian, gay, and bisexual students. Eng. Stud. https://doi.org/10.1080/19378629.2010.545065 (2011).

  77. Gibney, E. Discrimination drives LGBT+ scientists to think about quitting. Nature 571, 16–17 (2019).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  78. Cech, E. A. & Waidzunas, T. J. Systemic inequalities for LGBTQ professionals in STEM. Sci. Adv. 7, eabe0933 (2021).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  79. Cech, E. A. & Rothwell, W. R. LGBT workplace inequality in the federal workforce: Intersectional processes, organizational contexts, and turnover considerations. Ind. Labor Relat. Rev. 73, 25–60 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  80. Freeman, J. LGBTQ scientists are still left out. Nature 559, 27–28 (2018).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  81. Langin, K. LGBTQ researchers say they want to be counted. Science 370, 1391 (2020).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  82. Ahmed, S. Making feminist points. feministkilljoys https://feministkilljoys.com/2013/09/11/making-feminist-points (2013).

  83. Ahmed, S. Living a Feminist Life (Duke Univ. Press, 2017).

  84. Ahmed, S. What’s the Use? (Duke Univ. Press, 2019).

  85. Mott, C. & Cockayne, D. Citation matters: Mobilizing the politics of citation toward a practice of 'conscientious engagement'. Gend. Place Cult. 24, 954–973 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  86. Wouters, P. Semiotics and citation. In Theories of Informetrics and Scholarly Communication 72–92 (De Gruyter Saur, 2016).

  87. Egghe, L. & Rousseau, R. Informetrics: Quantitative Methods in Library, Documentation, and Information Science (Elsevier, 1990).

  88. Nakov, P. I., Schwarts, A. S. & Hearst, M. A. Citances: Citation sentences for semantic analysis of bioscience text. In Proc. SIGIR’04 Workshop on Search and Discovery in Bioinformatics (2004); https://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/summary?doi=10.1.1.59.2666

  89. Yan, E., Chen, Z. & Li, K. The relationship between journal citation impact and citation sentiment: A study of 32 million citances in pubmed central. Quant. Sci. Stud. 1, 664–674 (2020).

    Google Scholar 

  90. Dehdarirad, T. & Yaghtin, M. Gender differences in citation sentiment: A case study in life sciences and biomedicine. J. Inf. Sci. https://doi.org/10.1177/01655515221074327 (2022).

  91. Sugimoto, C. & Larivière, V. Measuring Research: What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford Univ. Press, 2018).

  92. Nash, J. Citational desires: On black feminismas institutional longings. Diacritics 48, 76–91 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  93. Sugimoto, C., Work, S., Larivière, V. & Haustein, S. Scholarly use of social media and altmetrics: A review of the literature. J. Assoc. Inf. Sci. 68, 20372062 (2017).

    Google Scholar 

  94. Massen, J. J. M., Bauer, L., Spurny, B., Bugnyar, T. & Kret, M. E. Sharing of science is most likely among male scientists. Sci. Rep. 7, 12927 (2017).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  95. Vásárhelyi, O., Zakhlebin, I., Milojević, S. & Horvát, E.-g Gender inequities in the online dissemination of scholars’ work. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 118, e2102945118 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  96. Atir, S. & Ferguson, M. J. How gender determines the way we speak about professionals. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 115, 7278–7283 (2018).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

We thank S. Loman for helpful discussions. E.G.T, L.C.B. and D.S.B. are supported by the National Science Foundation Materials Research Science and Engineering Center at University of Pennsylvania (NSF grant number DMR-1120901). J.Z.K. is supported by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. C.W.L. is supported by a James S. McDonnell Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship. S.C.S. acknowledges support from the University Scholars programme at the University of Pennsylvania. P.S. is supported by the Swartz Foundation. P.Z. and D.S.B also acknowledge support from the Center for Curiosity.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Dani S. Bassett.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Peer review

Peer review information

Nature Physics thanks Catherine Hobbs, Cassidy Sugimoto and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

Additional information

Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Figs. 1–24, Tables 1–3, Methods, Results and Discussion.

Rights and permissions

Springer Nature or its licensor holds exclusive rights to this article under a publishing agreement with the author(s) or other rightsholder(s); author self-archiving of the accepted manuscript version of this article is solely governed by the terms of such publishing agreement and applicable law.

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Teich, E.G., Kim, J.Z., Lynn, C.W. et al. Citation inequity and gendered citation practices in contemporary physics. Nat. Phys. 18, 1161–1170 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41567-022-01770-1

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41567-022-01770-1

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing