Medical research articles written by women cited less than those authored by men, study finds

Medical journal articles with women as primary and senior authors receive fewer citations on average compared to those authored by men, according to an analysis published July 2 in JAMA Open Network.

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia evaluated 5,554 articles published across five leading medical journals between 2015-18. Of those, nearly 36 percent had a woman as primary author, and nearly 26 percent had a female senior author. 

Three findings: 

1. Articles with women as primary authors were cited in other academic articles an average of 36 times, while those with men as primary authors were referenced a median of 54 times. 

2. The same trend was observed when analyzing by senior author title: Articles with female senior authors were cited an average of 37 times, while articles with men as senior authors had an average of 51 citations. 

3. Journal articles where women were both primary and senior authors were cited the fewest at an average of 33 times, while those who had men as both primary and senior writers were cited a median of 59 times. 

"This imbalance will not be solved through hiring and mentoring more women alone," said Rachel Werner, MD, PhD, senior study author. "We must also work to ensure that women already in academic medicine are equally valued and promoted for their contributions and their successes. From the journals publishing this work, to academic institutions promoting articles once published, everyone should be invested in bridging this gender divide," said Dr. Werner, executive director of the Leonard Davis Institute for Health Economics at the University of Pennsylvania.

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