According to a new study, it is more likely that scientific research carried out by men is termed as “excellent,” “novel,” “promising” or “unique”. This can be one of the reasons holding women back in science.
The study published in the journal BMJ was led by the German social scientist Marc Lerchenmueller. It looked at a set of 25 words considered “positive framing” in more than 100,000 clinical research articles and six million general life sciences articles published from 2002 to 2017.
Lerchenmueller, an assistant professor at the University of Mannheim, studies the gender gap in science and innovation. By a chat with his wife Carolin Lerchenmueller, he was inspired to look at how words are used differently based on gender in research summaries.
Marc Lerchenmueller said, “She felt they were a little overstated overhyped, you know, compared to what the actual research presented.”
This led him to research on whether there is a difference in the way men and women use language in the scientific research papers, and what impact it had.
In a 2015 study by Dutch researchers, it was already revealed that the 25 positive words that have dramatically increased between 1974 to 2014 include “robust,” “novel” and “innovative,”.
The 25 Positive words the researchers looked for were Novel, Unique, Promising, Favourable, Robust, Excellent, Prominent, Supportive, Encouraging, Remarkable, Innovative, Unprecedented, Bright, Enormous, Reassuring, Creative, Assuring, Hopeful, Astonishing, Spectacular, Amazing, Inventive, Phenomenal, Groundbreaking, and Inspiring.
In their analysis, they found out that articles in which first or the last author was a man used at least one of the “positive words” in the title or summary 12.2 percent of the time. However, in articles where first and last author were women used at least one of those words 10.9 percent of the time.
The researchers found that articles that made use of the glowing terms were cited 9.4 percent more by other scientists, and in high-impact journals, the use of those words was linked to 13 percent more citations.
Also, the researchers found that the journal papers that made use of the 25 positive words on the list had more citations
They said, “These findings suggest that differences in the degree of self-promotion may contribute to the well-documented gender gaps in academic medicine and in science more broadly.”