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Gender differences in authorship of critical care literature

American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine April 1, 2020

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Research Areas



RATIONALE: Gender gaps exist in academic leadership positions in critical care. Peer-reviewed publications are crucial to career advancement, and yet little is known regarding gender differences in authorship of critical care research.

OBJECTIVES: To evaluate gender differences in authorship of critical care literature.

METHODS: We used a validated database of author gender to analyze authorship of critical care articles indexed in PubMed between 2008 and 2018 in 40 frequently cited journals. High-impact journals were defined as those in the top 5% of all journals. We used mixed-effects logistic regression to evaluate the association of senior author gender with first and middle author gender, as well as association of first author gender with journal impact factor.

MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: Among 18,483 studies, 30.8% had female first authors, and 19.5% had female senior authors. Female authorship rose slightly over the last decade (average annual increases of 0.44% [P < 0.01] and 0.51% [P < 0.01] for female first and senior authors, respectively). When the senior author was female, the odds of female coauthorship rose substantially (first author adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 1.93; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.71-2.17; middle author aOR, 1.48; 95% CI, 1.29-1.69). Female first authors had higher odds than men of publishing in lower-impact journals (aOR, 1.30; 95% CI, 1.16-1.45).

CONCLUSIONS: Women comprise less than one-third of first authors and one-fourth of senior authors of critical care research, with minimal increase over the past decade. When the senior author was female, the odds of female coauthorship rose substantially. However, female first authors tend to publish in lower-impact journals. These findings may help explain the underrepresentation of women in critical care academic leadership positions and identify targets for improvement.


National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)