50 years of research productivity trends by field and gender

An analysis of scientific research articles published over the past 50 years provides new insights into trends in research productivity, highlighting an overall increase in productivity and a global gender gap. Milad Haghani of the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, and his colleagues present these findings in the open access journal PLOS ONE.

Tracking research productivity trends can help inform many initiatives, such as allocating research funds, making hiring decisions, and maximizing research impact.

To draw an up-to-date picture of productivity trends, Haghani and his colleagues conducted an extensive search of scholarly publications using the Web of Science platform. They ultimately analyzed information on 75 million scientific papers published worldwide between 1970 and 2020. Consistent with previous assessments, they used the number of scientific publications as a measure of research productivity.

This analysis highlighted several trends. Between 2010 and 2020, the annual number of publications has generally increased each year, with the fastest growing fields being environmental science and environmental engineering. However, the total number of publications fell in 2020, potentially reflecting the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic; computer science, engineering and social sciences saw the most notable declines in 2020.

The analysis also highlighted a persistent global gap in the total number of publications involving at least one female author compared to at least one male author, which does not appear to be closing for any country and widening in some, particularly in the countries of the Middle East. However, the productivity ratio of women to men seems to be decreasing, although at very different rates depending on the country.

The analysis found no significant gender differences in the overall decline in productivity associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. However, in some countries, including the Netherlands, the United States and Germany, the pandemic has been associated with a greater drop in productivity for men compared to women.

The authors note that the long-term impact of the pandemic remains to be determined. They also outline potential directions for future assessments to deepen understanding of research productivity trends, such as assessing gender gaps in specific areas and the impact of country-specific lockdown measures. country.

The authors add, “The problem of the gender gap in scholarly publishing, as an indicator of gender representation in academia, is very different across the world. In many countries it is not close to closing, and in many others the trends indicate that the gap will not close even in a century unless interventions are introduced.

– This press release was provided by PLOS

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