Author Gender and Career Progression in Environmental Science & Technology


Theodore B. Henry, Katia Marioni-Henry


Gender disparity within science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine (STEMM) is a critical problem that can diminish the potential of scientific achievement and the impact of resources dedicated to science on an international scale. Women are entering undergraduate and graduate programs in STEMM subjects in record numbers;(1) however, progression of women into senior scientific posts is not increasing as rapidly, is static, or may even be decreasing within some STEMM subjects.(2) Perhaps the most frequently used metric of academic achievement to evaluate readiness for promotion into senior scientific posts is assessment of the number, quality, and impact of research publications. While assessment of the relative frequency of female first authorship of scientific journal publications can be informative, first authorship is not necessarily an indication that females are progressing into senior scientific positions. First authors are often the scientists that have performed the experimentation, analyzed results, and written the manuscript; however, these efforts are frequently directed and supervised by a senior scientist. Within the author list of a scientific article, the corresponding (or reprint) author is frequently the scientist with overall responsibility for the work (e.g., the principal investigator), and the last author may be the senior author (may or may not be the corresponding author) or perhaps overall group or institute leader. Nonetheless, designation of authorship is not always straightforward and differences can exist among disciplines, journals, and within individual research groups. Despite limitations of the metric of scientific article authorship gender, the importance of authorship in terms of a scientist’s reputation, career progression, and impact within a discipline also dictate that the metric has potential importance for assessment of gender-disparity and career progression within a discipline.

We considered 15 098 articles (research articles and critical review articles) published from 2006 to 2016 in Environmental Science & Technology (ES&T), and evaluated first and reprint author gender over time, by geographical location, and by citation frequency. The Web of Science (WoS, Core Collection) was used to identify articles, and gender was determined by manual examination of author name and use of online resources (i.e., Research Gate, Linked in, institutional Web sites) as in previous studies.(3) To assess accuracy of our ability to assign author gender, 600 articles were randomly selected from the 15 098 articles in which we evaluated author gender, and independent re-evaluation of author gender for these 600 articles found our original gender assignment to be in 98% agreement overall [subsample of 600 articles (98.0 ± 0.4% mean ± SE, N = six groups of 100 articles)], which is consistent with other author gender assessments of scientific literature.(3)Assignment of first author gender was possible for 8265 articles (55.6 ± 1.9%, mean ± SE, N = 11 (i.e., each year: 2006–2016)) and reprint author gender was able to be assigned for 7926 articles (53.0 ± 0.8%, mean ± SE, N = 11). Assignment of author gender was highest for articles in which reprint author country was from the United States or the European Union (gender assigned to 70% and 79% of articles, respectively), whereas gender was assigned for only 2% of articles when the reprint author address was China. For citation frequency, only articles published in years 2006–2012 (5110 articles) were considered to avoid potential bias of more recently published articles that have not had sufficient time to accrue stable citation profiles. All statistical analyses were conducted with R version 3.2.2 ((2015–08–14) Copyright © 2015, The R Foundation for Statistical Computing). Please contact the authors for details of statistical methods (

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Henry TB, Marioni-Henry K. 2017. Author gender and career progression in Environmental Science & Technology. Environmental Science & Technology 51:9417-9418.