Study Finds That Male Authors of Scientific Papers Tend to Hype Their Own Work More Than Women Authors

A new study published in the British Medical Journal by researchers at Harvard University, Yale University, and Mannheim University in Germany finds that men tend to hype their own academic work to a greater degree than women scholars.

Researchers reviewed more than 6 million peer-reviewed clinical and life science studies published between 2002 and 2017. They found that articles, where the lead or senior author was a man, were 22 percent more likely than articles where the lead or senior author was a woman to use language in the abstract categorizing their findings using such words as significant, unique, unprecedented, prominent, and noteworthy. The researchers found that articles that used 25 different superlatives to describe their own work were 13 percent more likely to be cited by peers in their research.

The authors questioned: “Does this mean women should hype their research more? Generally speaking, the language used should accurately reflect the quality and importance of the findings. Our study reveals that women self-promote less than men, but we cannot say whether women understate their achievements or whether men overstate them.”

The authors also stated that “although our research has focused on the life sciences, we suspect that these gender disparities in self-promotion occur in a wide variety of settings, probably contributing to the societal gender gaps in pay and promotion. So it seems fair to say that women would do well to promote their accomplishments more.”

The full study, “Gender Differences in How Scientists Present the Importance of Their Research: Observational Study,” may be accessed here.


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