Similarly to many scientific disciplines, neuroscience has increasingly attempted to confront pervasive gender imbalances. Although publishing and conference participation are often highlighted, recent research has called attention to the prevalence of gender imbalance in citations. Because of the downstream effects of citations on visibility and career advancement, understanding the role of gender in citation practices is vital for addressing scientific inequity. Here, we investigate whether gendered patterns are present in neuroscience citations. Using data from five top neuroscience journals, we find that reference lists tend to include more papers with men as first and last author than would be expected if gender were unrelated to referencing. Importantly, we show that this imbalance is driven largely by the citation practices of men and is increasing over time as the field diversifies. We assess and discuss possible mechanisms and consider how researchers might approach these issues in their own work.
Subscribe to Journal
Get full journal access for 1 year
only $17.42 per issue
All prices are NET prices.
VAT will be added later in the checkout.
Rent or Buy article
Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.
All prices are NET prices.
Data and materials for this study have been deposited in an Open Science Framework repository and can be accessed at https://osf.io/h79g8/.
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).
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).
Reshma, J. Sex differences in attainment of independent funding by career development awardees. Ann. Intern. Med. 151, 804–811 (2009).
van der Lee, R. & Ellemers, N. Gender contributes to personal research funding success in the Netherlands. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 112, 12349–12353 (2015).
Sarsons, H. Recognition for group work: gender differences in academia. Am. Econ. Rev. 107, 141–145 (2017).
MacNell, L., Driscoll, A. & Hunt, A. N. What’s in a name: exposing gender bias in student ratings of teaching. Innov. Higher Educ. 40, 291–303 (2015).
Mengel, F., Sauermann, J. & Zölitz, U. Gender bias in teaching evaluations. J. Eur. Econ. Assoc. 17, 535–566 (2019).
Boring, A. Gender biases in student evaluations of teaching. J. Public Econ. 145, 27–41 (2017).
Nielsen, M. W. Limits to meritocracy? Gender in academic recruitment and promotion processes. Sci. Pub. Pol. 43, 386–399 (2016).
De Paola, M. & Scoppa, V. Gender discrimination and evaluators’ gender: evidence from Italian academia. Economica 82, 162–188 (2015).
West, J. D., Jacquet, J., King, M. M., Correll, S. J. & Bergstrom, C. T. The role of gender in scholarly authorship. PLoS ONE 8, e66212 (2013).
Wilhelm, I., Conklin, S. L. & Hassoun, N. New data on the representation of women in philosophy journals: 2004–2015. Int. J. Philos. Stud. 175, 1441–1464 (2018).
Huang, J., Gates, A. J., Sinatra, R. & Barabasi, A.-L. Historical comparison of gender inequality in scientific careers across countries and disciplines. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 117, 4609–4616 (2020).
Ferber, M. A. & Brun, M. The gender gap in citations: does it persist? Fem. Econ. 17, 151–158 (2011).
Maliniak, D., Powers, R. & Walter, B. F. The gender citation gap in international relations. Int. Organ. 67, 889–922 (2013).
Caplar, N., Tacchella, S. & Birrer, S. Quantitative evaluation of gender bias in astronomical publications from citation counts. Nat. Astron. 1, 0141 (2017).
Fang, D., Moy, E., Colburn, L. & Hurley, J. Racial and ethnic disparities in faculty promotion in academic medicine. JAMA 284, 1085–1092 (2000).
Petersen, A. M. et al. Reputation and impact in academic careers. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 111, 15316–15321 (2014).
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).
Joels, M. & Mason, C. A tale of two sexes. Neuron 82, 1196–1199 (2014).
Anonymous. Promoting diversity in neuroscience. Nat. Neurosci. 21, 1 (2018).
Schrouff, J. et al. Gender bias in (neuro)science: facts, consequences and solutions. Eur. J. Neurosci. 50, 3094–3100 (2019).
Chakravartty, P., Kuo, R., Grubbs, V. & McIlwain, C. #CommunicationSoWhite. J. Commun. 68, 254–266 (2018).
Thiem, Y., Sealey, K. F., Ferrer, A. E., Trott, A. M. & Kennison, R. Just Ideas? The Status and Future of Publication Ethics in Philosophy (Publication Ethics, 2018).
Dion, M. L., Sumner, J. L. & Mitchell, S. M. Gendered citation patterns across political science and social science methodology fields. Polit. Anal. 26, 312–327 (2018).
Rossiter, M. W. The Matthew Matilda effect in science. Soc. Stud. Sci. 23, 325–341 (1993).
Mitchell, S. M., Lange, S. & Brus, H. Gendered citation patterns in international relations journals. Int. Stud. Perspect. 14, 485–492 (2013).
Bergstrom, C. T., West, J. D. & Wiseman, M. A. The Eigenfactor metrics. J. Neurosci. 28, 11433–11434 (2008).
Feder, E. K. Making Sense of Intersex: Changing Ethical Perspectives in Biomedicine (Indiana University Press, 2014).
Stryker, S. Transgender History (Seal Studies) (Seal Press, 2008).
Bertrand, M. & Mullainathan, S. Are Emily and Greg more employable than Lakisha and Jamal? A field experiment on labor market discrimination. Am. Econ. Rev. 94, 991–1013 (2004).
Brownstein, M. Implicit bias. in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Fall 2019 edn. (ed. Zalta, E. N.) https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/implicit-bias/ (Stanford University, 2019).
Holman, L. & Morandin, C. Researchers collaborate with same-gendered colleagues more often than expected across the life sciences. PLoS ONE 14, e0216128 (2019).
Lee, E. et al. Homophily and minority-group size explain perception biases in social networks. Nat. Hum. Behav. 3, 1078–1087 (2019).
Aksnes, D. W., Langfeldt, L. & Wouters, P. Citations, citation indicators and research quality: an overview of basic concepts and theories. SAGE Open 9, 215824401982957 (2019).
Henry, P. J. Institutional bias. in Handbook of Prejudice, Stereotyping and Discrimination (eds. Dovidio, J. F. et al.) 426–440 (Sage, 2010).
Clarke, J. A. Explicit bias. Northwest. Univ. Law Rev. 113, 505–586 (2018).
Conaway, W. & Bethune, S. Implicit bias and first name stereotypes: what are the implications for online instruction? J. Online Learn. 19, 162–178 (2015).
Paludi, M. A. & Strayer, L. A. What’s in an author’s name? Differential evaluations of performance as a function of author’s name. Sex Roles 12, 353–361 (1985).
Posselt, J. R. Inside Graduate Admissions (Harvard University Press, 2016).
Colgan, J. Gender bias in international relations graduate education? New evidence from syllabi. PS Polit. Sci. Polit. 50, 456–460 (2017).
Penders, B. Ten simple rules for responsible referencing. PLoS Comput. Biol. 14, e1006036 (2018).
Sumner, J. L. The gender balance assessment tool (GBAT): a web-based tool for estimating gender balance in syllabi and bibliographies. PS Polit. Sci. Polit. 51, 396–400 (2018).
Lamont, J. & Favor, C. Distributive justice. in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Winter 2017 edn. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/justice-distributive/ (ed. Zalta E. N.) (Stanford University, 2017).
Olsaretti, S. The idea of distributive justice. in The Oxford Handbook of Distributive Justice Vol. 1 (ed. Olsaretti S.) https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199645121.013.38 (Oxford University Press, 2018).
Young, I. M. & Allen, D. S. Justice and the Politics of Difference (Princeton University Press, 2011).
Ahmed, S. On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life (Duke University Press, 2012).
Walker, M. U. What is Reparative Justice? (The Aquinas Lecture 2010) (Marquette University Press, 2010).
Anderson, E. The Imperative of Integration (Princeton University Press, 2010).
Gutiérrez, M. G., Niemann, Y. F., González, C. G. & Harris, A. P. (eds.) Presumed Incompetent: The Intersections of Race and Class for Women in Academia (University Press of Colorado, 2012).
Toth, C., Durham, E., Kantarcioglu, M., Xue, Y. & Malin, B. SOEMPI: a secure open enterprise master patient index software toolkit for private record linkage. AMIA Annu. Symp. Proc. 2014, 1105–1114 (2014).
Blevins, C. & Mullen, L. Jane, John … Leslie? A historical method for algorithmic gender prediction. Digit. Humanit. Q. 9, 2015.
Fausto-Sterling, A. Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality 1st edn, (Basic Books, 2000).
King, M. M., Bergstrom, C. T., Correll, S. J., Jacquet, J. & West, J. D. Men set their own cites high: gender and self-citation across fields and over time. Socius 3, 237802311773890 (2017).
Wood, S. N. Generalized Additive Models: An Introduction with R 2nd edn, (Chapman and Hall/CRC, 2017).
Sture, H. A simple sequentially rejective multiple test procedure. Scand. J. Statist. 6, 65–70 (1979).
Jadidi, M., Karimi, F., Lietz, H. & Wagner, C. Gender disparities in science? Dropout, productivity, collaborations and success of male and female computer scientists. Adv. Complex Syst. 21, 1750011 (2018).
Yang, Y., Chawla, N. V. & Uzzi, B. A network’s gender composition and communication pattern predict women’s leadership success. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 116, 2033–2038 (2019).
AlShebli, B. K., Rahwan, T. & Woon, W. L. The preeminence of ethnic diversity in scientific collaboration. Nat. Commun. 9, 5163 (2018).
Uhly, K. M., Visser, L. M. & Zippel, K. S. Gendered patterns in international research collaborations in academia. Stud. High. Educ. 42, 1–23 https://doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2015.1072151 (2015).
Zippel, K. S. Women in Global Science: Advancing Academic Careers Through International Collaboration (Stanford University Press, 2017).
We thank D. Lydon-Staley and D. Zhou for constructive comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. R.T.S. would like to acknowledge support from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (R01 NS085211 and R01 NS060910). D.S.B. acknowledges support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and an NSF CAREER award (PHY-1554488). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of any of the funding agencies.
The authors declare no competing interests.
Peer review information Nature Neuroscience thanks Clarissa Bauer-Staeb, Katherine Button, Catherine Hobbs, Russell Poldrack and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Dworkin, J.D., Linn, K.A., Teich, E.G. et al. The extent and drivers of gender imbalance in neuroscience reference lists. Nat Neurosci 23, 918–926 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41593-020-0658-y
Nature Neuroscience (2020)
Nature Biomedical Engineering (2020)
Trends in Cognitive Sciences (2020)
Nature Reviews Neuroscience (2020)