Study Finds Gender Bias in the Perception of the Value of Scientific Papers

Silvia Knobloch-WesterwickA new study by lead author Silvia Knobloch-Westerwick, a professor of communication at Ohio State University, finds that the gender of the author of scientific papers can have an impact on how the research is received. Young graduate students were given abstracts of research papers and were asked to assess the work. The names of the authors were fictitious and were obviously male or female. The author names were not prominently displayed. Some participants were given a paper with male authors while other participants were given the same paper with women authors. In most cases, the papers with male authors were rated higher than those with female authors. Papers by woman authors on topics such as parenting, children, and body image were rated higher but on other most other topics, papers by male authors were rated higher.

“There’s still a stereotype in our society that science is a more appropriate career for men than it is for women,” Knobloch-Westerwick said. “Even among young graduate students, the faculty of tomorrow, such stereotypes are still alive.”

Dr. Knobloch-Westerwick worries that such bias will creep into other decision. “In grant proposals, promotion and tenure reviews, hiring decisions and so on, a scholar’s sex will be a relevant factor in how she or he is evaluated,” she said.

Professor Knobloch-Westerwick has been on the faculty at Ohio State since 2005. Previously, she taught at the University of California at Davis. She holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in communication from the University of Music, Drama, Media in Hannover, Germany.

The paper may be accessed here.

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  1. Nancy Morrison says:

    It would be interesting to learn whether more experienced readers of scientific papers, such as Ph.D. holders, would exhibit the same bias, or whether their presumably more highly trained scientific judgements would prevail.

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