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Gender Differences in Describing Research

There are a number of possible factors that contribute to the gender gap in medicine and the life sciences. One that receives relatively little empirical attention is the tendency of female researchers to describe their research more modestly than their male colleagues.

This study by Marc Lerchemueller, Olav Sorenson, and Anupam Jena looks quantitatively at this tendency, analysing publications in the life sciences and clinical research. In total they examined titles and abstracts from around 6.3 million articles and tested how often researchers used terms like “novel” and “excellent” to describe their research. What they found is that men were 12% more likely than women to present their research positively. For high impact clinical journals, this increases to 21%. And what’s more, the authors show that positive presentation of research leads to more citations down the road.

So what can be done to reduce the effects of this phenomenon? According to the authors, the first step is to raise awareness.

Lerchenmueller, Sorenson, and Jena’s article can be accessed here.

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