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Collaboration between Women Helps Close the Gender Gap in Ice Core Science

Analyzing the evolution of women's participation in ice core research

by University of Alberta
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A Perspective article published in Nature Geoscience tackles the longstanding issue of gender representation in science, focusing on the field of ice core science. Prior work has shown that despite progress toward gender parity over the past 50 years, women continue to be significantly underrepresented within the discipline of Earth sciences and receive disproportionately fewer opportunities for recognition, such as invited talks, awards, and nominations. This lack of opportunity can have long-term negative impacts on women’s careers. To help address these persistent gender gaps, the study evaluates patterns related to women’s publication in ice core science over the past fifty years. The study was co-led by Bess Koffman of Colby College, USA, and Matthew Osman of Cambridge University, UK, and co-authored by Alison Criscitiello and Sofia Guest, both of the University of Alberta, Canada.

To assess relationships among gender, publication rate, and impact of co-author networks, the study evaluates a comprehensive, global dataset of abstracts representing published work in ice core science spanning 1969 to 2021 in this historically male-dominated discipline. The Perspective article shows that the inferred gender gap in ice core science has declined from roughly 10:90 percent women:men in the 1970s to ~30:70 percent in the past decade. Contrasting with prior work across the sciences, the authors find that women’s and men’s co-author networks have remained similarly sized and been similarly cited through time. This finding may reflect the high degree of international cooperation and the large collaborative teams that are typical of the field of ice core science.

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Importantly, the gender makeup of co-authors differs substantially for man vs. woman-led studies. Strikingly, within the past decade, woman-led studies have contained on average 20 percent more women co-authors than man-led studies, a difference found to be even greater in earlier decades. Moreover, since the early 2000s, the analysis shows that women have out-performed by about eight percent their estimated proportion within the ice core community in terms of publishing first-authored papers. The new analysis by Koffman, Osman, Criscitiello, and Guest suggests that senior women in particular catalyze women’s participation in publishing, and that collaboration between women can help close gender gaps in science.

- This press release was provided by the University of Alberta