Op-ed: ‘Patriarchy’ influences authorship of prestigious medical journal commentaries

Women are about 20% less likely to author invited commentaries in medical journals than men with similar levels of expertise and achievement in their fields, according to a December 10, 2019 op-ed in STAT by Emma Thomas, a doctoral student in Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Department of Biostatistics.

The op-ed described an analysis, co-authored by Thomas, that uncovered the discrepancy in a dataset of more than 70,000 articles from about 2,500 medical journals.

Invited commentaries are a prestigious type of article in which a journal invites an author, typically a prominent scientist, to give an expert opinion on recent research. Writing such commentaries is an acknowledgement of expertise and elevates the author through increased exposure.

“As long as men are the dominant gatekeepers in scientific publishing and hold the vast majority of senior research positions, the social-scientific process will continue to perpetuate entrenched gender inequities,” wrote Thomas. “This is the legacy of patriarchy in science.”

Read the STAT op-ed: I thought patriarchy in science was fading. Then I saw it in the data