Male scientists are more likely to put a positive twist on their work when describing it in a paper, according to a new analysis.
Researchers from the US and Germany analyzed the language used in the titles and abstracts of more than 101,000 clinical research articles and about 6.2 general life science papers in PubMed. As they report in The BMJ, the researchers found that papers with men as the first or last authors were more likely to use terms like "novel," "unique," or "unprecedented" when describing their work. This difference was more pronounced in high impact clinical journals where women were 21.4 percent less likely to present research in such positive terms.
Additionally, they note that putting a positive take on results was linked to higher downstream citations, which could, in turn, affect career outcomes.
"One theory you hear to explain this is that maybe men promote themselves more, at least in part because it is deemed more socially acceptable for them to engage in such behavior," first author Marc Lerchenmueller from the University of Mannheim says in a statement.
In a related editorial, also appearing in The BMJ, the University of Michigan's Reshma Jagsi and Harvard Medical School's Julie Silver argue that the system that enable gender disparity needs to be fixed and they call on journal editors and others to examine their processes and implicit bias.