Women researchers are underrepresented in medical faculties and in the broader life sciences. The reason for this could be as elementary as the way they frame their research. According to a recent study, published in the latest issue of BMJ, male researchers are more likely to frame their findings positively than their female colleagues and this increases their chances of downstream citation. Citations by other scientists increase the credibility of the research, boosting their career prospects.
The study was conducted by a team of researchers from the University of Mannheim (Germany), Yale University, and Harvard Medical School (US). They studied the titles and abstracts of different studies between 2002 and 2017. In all, they studied 101, 720 clinical research pieces and around 6.2 mn general life science studies from PubMed, an online library of different research studies from across the world.
For gender classification, they looked at the gender of the first and the last author. The team came up with a list of 25 positive terms, such as ‘excellent’ or ‘novel’. They found that men were 12.3 percent more likely to use positive terms when framing their research titles and abstracts. The difference was highest in high impact clinical journals (21.4 percent). Studies with a positive message have a higher chance of subsequent citation (9.4 percent higher), especially in high impact clinical journals.