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The Changing Face of Epidemiology: Gender Disparities in Citations?

Schisterman, Enrique F.; Swanson, Chandra W.; Lu, Ya-Ling; Mumford, Sunni L.

doi: 10.1097/EDE.0000000000000593
Epidemiology Practice

Background: Female biomedical scientists tend to publish fewer articles as last author than their male colleagues and accrue fewer citations per publication. We seek to understand whether epidemiology follows this pattern.

Methods: We gathered aggregate information on the current gender distribution of epidemiology departments (n = 29 of 71 surveyed), societies (n = 4 of 8), and journal editorial boards (n = 6 of 6) using two online surveys and publicly available online information. Bibliometric data from 4,149 articles published between 2008 and 2012 in six high-impact epidemiology journals were drawn from Web of Science and PubMed.

Results: We observed a higher prevalence of female than male doctoral students and epidemiology faculty, particularly at lower faculty ranks. A total of 54% of society members were female. Among editorial boards, all current and emeritus editors-in-chief were male and board membership was largely male (64%). Females were more likely to be first authors, but less likely to be last authors. There were no differences in accrued citations at the 50th percentile by first or last author gender. However, articles with male first and last authors tend to accrue more citations (5.7 citations, 95% CI: 2.1, 9.4), mostly driven by the most highly cited articles. This disparity is not fully explained by potential confounders, including seniority.

Conclusions: We found a greater number of female epidemiologists in early-career positions and further evidence of potential gender disparity in publication metrics in epidemiology. If epidemiology continues to be practiced by a majority of women, it remains to be seen if these patterns will change over time.

aEpidemiology Branch, Division of Intramural Population Health Research, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD; and bNIH Library, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD.

Editor’s Note: A commentary on this article appears on p. 169.

Submitted 6 May 2016; accepted 18 November 2016.

This study was supported by the Intramural Research Program of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health.

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

The data and code used for this analysis will be made available at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Data and Specimen Hub (DASH) website: https://dash.nichd.nih.gov/.

Supplemental digital content is available through direct URL citations in the HTML and PDF versions of this article (www.epidem.com).

Correspondence: Enrique F. Schisterman, Epidemiology Branch, Division of Intramural Population Health Research, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda MD, 6710B Rockledge Drive MSC 7004, Bethesda, MD 20892. E-mail: schistee@mail.nih.gov.

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