Workshop: Getting women due credit – on paper

Publish or perish is an adage with particular sting for women and other underrepresented scholars prone to not getting deserved credit on scientific papers. F&W scientists will provide perspective and pointers at the upcoming AAAS Annual Meeting.

Illustration of gender balance

Publish or perish is an adage with particular sting for women and other underrepresented scholars prone to not getting deserved credit on scientific papers. Scientists experienced both in this problem’s psychology and ethics, as well as in navigating the oft-choppy waters of authorship, will provide perspective and pointers at the upcoming American Association for the Advancement of Science Annual Meeting in Washington, DC.

The career workshop Authorship Decisions: Advocating for Representation will be held from 10-11:30 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 16. It is being organized by a group of Michigan professors – a research ethicist, a historian of science, and two environmental scientists from Michigan State University (MSU), as well as a psychologist at the University of Michigan.

Recent studies indicate that women, and likely scholars from other underrepresented groups, don’t always receive appropriate authorship credit for their contributions to scientific papers. This may happen because they are less likely to be the leaders of scientific teams, who hold disproportionate power when creating authorship lists. Biases may also cause other scientists to underestimate the contributions made by authors who come from underrepresented groups.

For example, a recent study found that women in the field of economics who published single-authored papers were just as likely to receive tenure as their male colleagues, but if they published collaborative papers they were less likely to receive tenure than male economists who were similarly collaborative. Other studies have found that women working in some scientific fields are less likely to appear in prestigious lead-author positions, and papers by women are less likely to be cited than those by men.

Because authorship is so central to career advancement, this problem represents a significant barrier to promoting a more diverse workforce.

“The bad news is that early-career scholars, especially those from underrepresented groups,  are disadvantaged when they don’t receive appropriate credit for their work,” said MSU historian of science Georgina Montgomery, “but the good news is that science teams can take steps to improve the situation.”   

This session will provide practical guidance to both early-career and senior scientists about navigating power dynamics and promoting responsible authorship decisions.

“We are excited about the opportunity to talk with other researchers about how to improve the climate on science teams, making it easier to have difficult conversations about authorship,” said MSU environmental scientist Kendra Cheruvelil. “Teams can also develop authorship policies that promote fair practices, and early-career scholars can take steps to clarify their contributions on collaborative papers.”  

This session emerged from a grant, “Ethical Standards and Practices of Environmental Science Teams: Does Team Diversity Matter?,” provided by the National Science Foundation’s Cultivating Cultures for Ethical STEM program to the workshop organizers: Cheruvelil, Montgomery, Kevin Elliott, and Patricia Soranno from Michigan State University, and Isis Settles from the University of Michigan.

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