The scientific journal Nature admits to quoting more men than women

Is science journalism also influenced by sexist biases that do not spare science? A study dedicated to the journal Nature shows significant differences. But the situation is improving, which means that the situation may tend towards better representation.

The sciences are not spared sexism and gender bias. In the field of medicine, data published in 2020, for example, showed that women experience more side effects when taking medicine, due to clinical trials filled with gender bias.

What about science journalism? Review Nature is one of the largest references in the world. It is both a scientific journal where studies are published, but there is also a “magazine” page where an editorial treatment of scientific news is maintained by journalists. In 2018, the journal published a self-analysis that showed that female authors of published studies were underrepresented.

This June 22, 2021, Nature this time forwards an external study which examines the number of men and women quoted in the editorial page of the journal. ” External analysis of 15-year stories reveals that men are quoted more than twice as often as women “, abstract Nature.

Front page for an issue of Nature.

Source: Nature

Between 69 and 87% of male names since 2005

The study in question begins by noting that science journalism is “ an important way for the public to stay informed and benefit from new scientific discoveries “while shaping” public opinion on the current state of discovery “and by” legitimizing experts “. Those who cover science to provide a coherent treatment can only cite a limited number of sources. These are identified as by the journalist’s research or by recommendations from other scientists “. But in both cases, biases can affect the choice of these sources.

Casey S Greene conducted a computerized analysis of more than 16,000 articles published by Nature in the period 2005-2020. It turns out that in the year 2020, 69% of the direct quotes from journalistic articles in the journal are from men. A figure against women, although it represents progress, since before 2017 this figure was 80% and even 87% in 2005. The changes are slow.

The two scientists identified only one exception to this imbalance: in the “Careers” section, which contains reports on educational and professional paths in scientific research, the citations of women and men are equal. Prejudice is pretty much present in the effective treatment of scientific news.

The scientific journal Nature admits to quoting more men than women

Gender disruption and lack of diversity also affect science journalism in a journal like Nature, where justice is not complete in terms of cited sources.

Source: Pexel

The study expands its field of research to origin of names “, Which highlights an increased representation of names of Celtic and Anglo-Saxon origin in the light of an under-representation of Asian names.


Source: Pexel

How to reduce bias in such a review?

The review, like the author and the author, notes some shortcomings in the study. First of all, there may be a slight discrepancy between the software count and reality: For a sample of articles from 2005 to 2015, the software attributed 78% of the names to male authors, with the census conducted by scientists being 75%. Then the software can not estimate non-binary gender nor the sources that for various reasons are not mentioned by journalists. However, these elements do not have a profound impact on the scope of the study, because even within a few percentages and even taking into account the proportion of non-binary individuals in the sources, the imbalance remains significant and undeniable.


Eryk (Wiki Ed)

Nature’s answer

For its part, the journal Nature takes note of the results and indicates that “ we need to work even harder to eliminate bias in our journalism. Although the drafting is common, it is essentially set in the United States and Europe; however, Nature is an international reference journal, ” we need to find several different sources around the world “.

The editors of Nature also mentions in his article working on centralized tools to reduce bias. In 2020-2021, the magazine “ developed and tested a prototype system for the purpose of “collecting information on gender, career level and location of journalistic sources »Whether it is experts or other cited contributions. ” We hope to be able to use this information to establish and communicate a range of benchmark figures and then improve them. »


Setting up the mask // Source: Louise Audry for Numerama

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