Saturday, December 14, 2013

Gender imbalance in scientific research

In a recent article in Nature researchers have used bibliometrics to highlight the gender disparity in the publication output within the sciences around the world. The study reveals that female scientists are publishing less volume than their male counterparts and that their publications have a lower citation impact as well. The authors touch on a number of well documented imbalances between the genders in the sciences including funding, earnings, hiring and patenting.

One of the issues the researchers had to get around in their study was how to determine gender of the authors of journal articles indexed by Thomson Reuters in the Web of Science. They used a combination of sources to match the name to a gender including social security databases, Wikipedia and even Facebook (the interesting methodology can be read in their supplementary material).

It would be interesting to see the same data normalized for funding. In many cases funding agencies are awarding more money to male scientists than to female scientists (e.g. from the ARC's website for Number of participants on all funded projects Male = 2280 and Female = 622). It would be interesting to know whether perhaps female scientists were achieving "more with less" when it came to publication output compared with funding and opportunity.

While there is no single answer to the problem these researchers are describing they do make a good point about improving the ability for female scientist to travel and collaborate internationally:

"For a country to be scientifically competitive, it needs to maximize its human intellectual capital. Our data suggest that, because collaboration is one of the main drivers of research output and scientific impact, programmes fostering international collaboration for female researchers might help to level the playing field."

Researcher mobility in all fields is a good strategy for any organisation that can afford it - and is certainly critical for any developed nation's research strategic plan.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Crowdfunding Research

Researchers at Deakin University have completed a really interesting pilot project using crowd-funding to source money for research projects. The pilot titled, Research My World, was run in partnership with crowd-funding site and is the first of its kind in Australia. Of the 8 projects put forward for funding 6 were funded (75% success rate!). However, not only did the pilot raise funds for the projects it also generated huge media and social-media attention for the projects and the researchers. In addition it provided an excellent introduction for the researchers to the use of social media in engaging the wider community in university research.

A copy of the Research My World pilot project evaluation can be found at this link: