Study Finds That Gender-Balanced Research Teams Produce the Most-Novel and Most-Cited Papers

A new study by researchers at the University of Notre Dame, New York University, and Northwestern University finds that science teams made up of men and women produce papers that are more novel and highly cited than those of all-men or all-women teams. (The authors of the study are both men and women.)

The authors analyzed 6.6 million papers in 15,000 journals published across the medical sciences since 2000. The study found that the “best” papers were the ones where the authors had the highest level of gender diversity. This effect held true for small and large teams, in 45 subfields of medicine, and women- or men-led teams for published papers in all science fields over the last 20 years. The study notes, however, that the number of papers with gender-balanced authorship has increased in recent years but remains lower than expected.

The authors conclude that “the novelty and impact advantages seen with mixed-gender teams persist when considering numerous controls and potential related features, including fixed effects for the individual researchers, team structures, and network positioning, suggesting that a team’s gender balance is an underrecognized yet powerful correlate of novel and impactful scientific discoveries.”

The researchers note that “laboratory experiments suggest that women on a team improve information-sharing processes on teams, such as turn taking. It might also be that women provide a perspective on research questions that men do not possess and vice versa or it may be that when a team has both women and men teammates, there are synergies specific to gender-diverse teams that are more than the additivity of team processes and information typically associated with all-women and all-men teams.”

The full study, “Gender-Diverse Teams Produce More Novel and Higher-Impact Scientific Ideas,” was published on the website of the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences. It may be accessed here.

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