Issue analysis: Author gender

An analysis of 2010 data on actively licensed physicians in the United States found physicians were 66.9% male, 29.0% female, and 4.1% unknown. These percentages are expected to shift because of the steady increase in female medical school graduates. As a 2008 report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states, “During the past 3 decades the proportion of physicians who are female has risen from 8 percent to nearly 1 in 4 physicians. Recent trends suggest that within the next 2 decades women will constitute nearly half the physician workforce.”

Do these numbers apply to published medical research, too? Jagsi et al, in a 2006 New England Journal of Medicine article, examined original articles from 6 selected medical journals to assess the representation of female physician-investigators. Overall, they found female physician-investigators were first authors 15.9% of the time and senior authors 10.3%. The authors examined the years 1970, 1980, 1990, 2000, and 2004, finding female first authors increased from 5.9% in 1970, to 27.5% in 2000, and 29.3% in 2004.

To analyze gender representation in The Ochsner Journal, we investigated the journal’s 14 volumes from 1999-2014. Unlike Jagsi et al, who restricted their results to MD degree holders from United States institutions, our numbers are not limited to physicians in America. In our analysis, nurses, research professionals, medical students, and other healthcare providers were also included. Given The Ochsner Journal‘s international nature, contributors were not exclusively from the United States.

Here’s what we found:

  • 1,667 authors were listed on 560 articles. Of these authors, gender could not be determined in 24 instances, and they were excluded.
  • Female authors appeared 422 times (25.7%). Male authors appeared 1,221 times (74.3%).
  • First authors were female 143 times (25.5%). First authors were male 417 times (74.5%).
  • Vol. 11 (2011) had the most female representation with 35.7% total female authors and 40.8% female first authors.
  • Vol. 4 (2002) had the least female authors (12.7%) overall, and Vol. 5 (2003) had the least female first authors (8%).

With the above parameters in mind, conclusions can’t be made about The Ochsner Journal and the physician workforce, nor can we compare our results to those of Jagsi et al. We can see, however, that our representation of female authors is improving: Comparing data for volumes 1-7 and 8-14, we found a 4.8% increase in total female authors and a 7.2% increase in female first authors.

As The Ochsner Journal steadily increases the amount of articles published annually, the editorial board will continue to monitor contributor demographics, understand the barriers female contributors face, and increase efforts to encourage female physicians to submit manuscripts.

Research disclosures: Gender was determined by National Provider Identification information via HIPAASpace, author photographs, and author biographies. Authors with repeat contributions were listed for each contribution. In 101 instances, author gender was assigned by the researcher based on naming conventions. Excluded articles were editorials, From the Editor’s Desk, academic updates, Ochsner profiles, book reviews, Research Night/Research Day abstracts, and historical accounts.
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