, Volume 117, Issue 3, pp 1663–1693 | Cite as

How does research productivity relate to gender? Analyzing gender differences for multiple publication dimensions

  • Sabrina J. Mayer
  • Justus M. K. RathmannEmail author


Measures of research productivity have become widely used for obtaining tenure, third-party funding, and additional resources from universities. However, previous studies indicate that men might have a higher research output than women, with mixed conclusions about the factors that drive these differences. This study explores to what extent the research productivity of psychology professors in Germany is related to gender and, furthermore, how any gender gaps can be explained by controlling for individual and organizational factors. In addition, three publication dimensions (publications in top 10% journals, journal articles, and book and collection chapters) are distinguished to determine the effect of gender on research productivity as precisely as possible. A unique data set based on all full professors in psychology in Germany and their publication record in 2013 and 2014 is used (\(N_\mathrm{authors}\) = 294; \(N_\mathrm{articles}\) = 2252, \(N_\mathrm{chapters}\) = 439). Thus, this study provides a current overview of the state of research productivity in an entire discipline after researchers receive tenure and external restrictions are lessened. Our research helps to further locate the point at which gender differences in publication numbers occur. As we are the first to systematically to analyze different publication types, we are able to show that there is no difference in publication numbers for less-prestigious book chapters. However, we find significant gender differences for research productivity in academic journals that are more important for career advancement and peer recognition, even after we control for the most important individual and organizational factors that might explain gender differences. Our results point to the direction that women do research and write manuscripts, but may have different publication patterns: instead of submitting to competitive journals, they may be satisfied with less-prestigious book chapters. As publications in peer-reviewed journals are especially important for career advancement as well as peer recognition, this publication pattern may be disadvantageous for women. Overall, we conclude that additional research to understand these developments is needed that focuses on the motives and beliefs of researchers, both to improve gender equality in academia and to give women better chances to gain recognition and prestige.


Research productivity Gender differences Publication output Psychology 



The authors are thankful to Jonas Elis, Lukas Fiege, Jakob Kemper, Antonia Velicu and Erik Wenker for research assistance. The authors are grateful to Julia Jerke, David Johann, and the two anonymous reviewers for their comments and helpful hints and to Sybille Hinze and Marion Schmidt for support in the second data collection. The authors are ordered alphabetically. Both authors contributed equally to the conception and design of the study, the data collection process, the analysis and interpretation of the data as well as writing and revising the manuscript. Justus Rathmann is funded by SNSF Starting Grant “CONCISE” (S-64408-01-01).


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© Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, Hungary 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Political ScienceUniversity of Duisburg-EssenDuisburgGermany
  2. 2.Department Research System and Science DynamicsGerman Centre for Higher Education Research and Science StudiesBerlinGermany
  3. 3.Institute of SociologyUniversity of ZurichZurichGermany

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