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A 50-year analysis of gender differences in United States authorship of original research articles in two major anesthesiology journals

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Abstract

Underrepresentation of women in academic medicine is strongly linked to differences in men’s and women’s scholarship and has been shown to substantially reduce the overall quality of research. An authorship “gender gap” exists in most medical specialties, but differences in research article authorship have only been recently suggested in anesthesiology. We analyzed authorship of US research articles published in Anesthesiology and Anesthesia and Analgesia (journals that publish two-thirds of all anesthesiology-related articles) from 1967 to 2017 to test the hypothesis that publication of anesthesiology research articles by women authors has progressively increased over time along with greater involvement in first, last, and corresponding author roles. Research articles appearing in Anesthesiology and Anesthesia and Analgesia in 1967, 1977, 1987, 1997, 2007, and 2017 were identified. The corresponding author was used to determine the country of origin of each article; only articles originating from the US were included in the analysis. Each author’s gender was determined by inspection of the first name and verified using the author’s institutional website or an internet search if necessary. First, last, and corresponding authors as well as co-authors were noted for each article. Federal grant support was also identified if present. Gender was identified in 98.2% of authors. A total of 1350 research articles with 6165 authors (1319 female; 21.4%) originated from the US. The percentage of women authors increased in a time-dependent manner in Anesthesiology from 6.2% in 1967 to 31.3% in 2017. The proportion of women who were first, last, and corresponding authors increased from 5.1%, 8.9%, and 2.5%, respectively, in 1967 to 37.0%, 22.2%, and 25.9% in 2017, respectively. The number of women co-authors per article also increased over time. Similar results were observed in Anesthesia and Analgesia. The percentage of articles that included at least one woman rose progressively over time in both journals (e.g., Anesthesiology, 12.6% in 1967 versus 90.7% in 2017). Articles published in Anesthesiology were more likely to be supported by a federal grant than those in Anesthesia and Analgesia. The percentage of women first authors of US research articles in Anesthesiology and Anesthesia and Analgesia increased from 1967 to 2017 and approaches the proportion who currently hold academic appointments. Women’s last and corresponding authorship also increased during the past 50 years, but women continue to be relatively underrepresented in these roles.

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This work was supported entirely by departmental funds (salary support).

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PSP: study design, data extraction, data analysis, writing and editing of the manuscript; JKF: data analysis, writing and editing of the manuscript; CAL: data analysis, writing editing of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Paul S. Pagel.

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Pagel, P.S., Freed, J.K. & Lien, C.A. A 50-year analysis of gender differences in United States authorship of original research articles in two major anesthesiology journals. Scientometrics 121, 371–386 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11192-019-03192-y

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