Ainda é grande o fosso de representatividade feminina em publicações científicas

sábado, outubro 21, 2017

Women are underrepresented in computational biology: An analysis of the scholarly literature in biology, computer science and computational biology

Kevin S. Bonham , Melanie I. Stefan

Source/Fonte: Harvard Medical School


While women are generally underrepresented in STEM fields, there are noticeable differences between fields. For instance, the gender ratio in biology is more balanced than in computer science. We were interested in how this difference is reflected in the interdisciplinary field of computational/quantitative biology. To this end, we examined the proportion of female authors in publications from the PubMed and arXiv databases. There are fewer female authors on research papers in computational biology, as compared to biology in general. This is true across authorship position, year, and journal impact factor. A comparison with arXiv shows that quantitative biology papers have a higher ratio of female authors than computer science papers, placing computational biology in between its two parent fields in terms of gender representation. Both in biology and in computational biology, a female last author increases the probability of other authors on the paper being female, pointing to a potential role of female PIs in influencing the gender balance.

Author summary

There are fewer women than men working in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). However, some fields within STEM are more gender-balanced than others. For instance, biology has a relatively high proportion of women, whereas there are few women in computer science. But what about computational biology? As an interdisciplinary STEM field, would its gender balance be close to one of its “parent” fields, or in between the two? To investigate this question, we examined authorship data from databases of scholarly publications in biology, computational biology, and computer science. We found that computational biology lies in between computer science and biology, as far as female representation goes. This is independent of other factors, e.g. year of publication. This suggests that computational biology might provide an environment that is more conducive to female participation that other areas of computer science. Across all three fields, we also found that if the last author on a publication—usually the person leading the study—is a women, then there will also be more women in other authorship positions. This suggests that having women in leadership positions might be beneficial for overall gender balance, though our data do not allow us to uncover the underlying mechanism.

Citation: Bonham KS, Stefan MI (2017) Women are underrepresented in computational biology: An analysis of the scholarly literature in biology, computer science and computational biology. PLoS Comput Biol13(10): e1005134.

Editor: Carl T. Bergstrom, University of Washington, UNITED STATES

Received: December 7, 2016; Accepted: July 7, 2017; Published: October 12, 2017

Copyright: © 2017 Bonham, Stefan. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Data Availability: Publication and author information for the manuscripts analyzed are archived on Code to analyze the data are available on github and archived at Gender inferences for first names were supplied by An example dataset of 1000 names and associated data is included as supplementary data. For more information, contact Markus Perl at

Funding: The authors received no specific funding for this work.

Competing interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

FREE PDF GRATIS: PLoS Computational Biology