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    Original Investigation
    Medical Journals and Publishing
    October 23, 2019

    Gender Disparities in Invited Commentary Authorship in 2459 Medical Journals

    Author Affiliations
    • 1Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Harvard University, Boston, Massachusetts
    • 2Elsevier Inc, New York, New York
    • 3Elsevier BV, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
    • 4Harvard Data Science Initiative, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts
    JAMA Netw Open. 2019;2(10):e1913682. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.13682
    Key Points español 中文 (chinese)

    Question  Is gender associated with authorship of invited commentaries in medical journals among authors with comparable scientific credentials?

    Findings  In this case-control study of invited commentaries published in 2459 journals from January 1, 2013, through December 31, 2017, the odds of authoring an invited commentary were 21% lower for women compared with men who had similar fields of expertise and publication metrics among researchers who had been actively publishing for the median of 19 years.

    Meaning  Women had lower odds of authoring invited commentaries in medical journals compared with men with similar scientific expertise, seniority, and publication metrics.


    Importance  In peer-reviewed medical journals, authoring an invited commentary on an original article is a recognition of expertise. It has been documented that women author fewer invited publications than men do. However, it is unknown whether this disparity is due to gender differences in characteristics that are associated with invitations, such as field of expertise, seniority, and scientific output.

    Objective  To estimate the odds ratio (OR) of authoring an invited commentary for women compared with men who had similar expertise, seniority, and publication metrics.

    Design, Setting, and Participants  This matched case-control study included all medical invited commentaries published from January 1, 2013, through December 31, 2017, in English-language medical journals and multidisciplinary journals. Invited commentaries were defined as publications that cite another publication within the same journal volume and issue. Bibliometric data were obtained from Scopus. Cases were defined as corresponding authors of invited commentaries in a given journal during the study period. Controls were matched to cases based on scientific expertise by calculating a similarity index for abstracts published during the same period using natural language processing. Data analyses were conducted from March 13, 2019, through May 3, 2019.

    Exposure  Corresponding or sole author gender was predicted from author first name and country of origin using genderize.io.

    Main Outcomes and Measures  The OR for gender was estimated after adjusting for field of expertise, publication output, citation impact, and years active (ie, years since first publication), with an interaction between gender and years active.

    Results  The final data set included 43 235 cases across 2549 journals; there were 34 047 unique intraciting commentary authors, among whom 9072 (26.6%) were women. For researchers who had been active for the median of 19 years, the odds of invited commentary authorship were 21% lower for women (OR, 0.79 [95% CI, 0.77-0.81]; P < .001) compared with men who had similar scientific expertise, number of publications, and citation impact. For every decile increase in years active, the OR decreased by a factor of 0.97 (95% CI, 0.96-0.98; P < .001).

    Conclusions and Relevance  In this case-control study, women had lower odds of authoring invited commentaries than their male peers. This disparity was larger for senior researchers. Journal editors could use natural language processing of published research to widen and diversify the pool of experts considered for commentary invitations.