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Women in Science

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Audio clip: Sally thinks that her division’s emphasis on the importance of having relatively few authors on papers for the REF discourages including research assistants as co-authors.

Have you noticed anything now, as a woman that is more difficult for you?

So what I notice now is that I think women go about research rather differently from men. And I think that women tend to be more collaborative than men and they tend to not shout about their research quite as much as men do.


And I think that at the moment, collaborative research, although it is, it’s perceived to be something good in principle, in practice, when you undertake collaborative research it often means that your research papers have large numbers of authors on and that is then not considered quite such a good thing. It sort of dilutes the impact of your research and you can’t claim it as your own in quite the same way that you can if you’re doing it in a very independent fashion. And so that makes it harder to show the impact of your own work.

How have you come to this judgement? Is it just sort of a feeling or …?

No, it’s very specifically through the experience of the last Research Assessment Exercise, that papers that were submissable by the Oxford Medical Sciences Division, for that Research Assessment Exercise we told that had to have fewer than a certain number of authors and that the position of yourself within that list of authors had to be, you know, either top or last. And when you’re in, in very collaborative projects, of course it’s not so easy to position yourself in those prime positions…


… and the number of authors is also often much larger in collaborative research projects. And also if the number of authors is supposed to be kept to a minimum then it discourages you from including authors who I feel personally should be on there, which may, which would include research assistants who have contributed a lot to the, to the actual experiments within the paper because I think everybody should be on there who has performed experiments because they should take responsibility for the experiments that they have done. And so I feel that this emphasis on small number of authors on papers for submission to the Research Assessment Exercise is a discouragement to collaborative research.

I can see that but what makes you think that men are more against that sort of collaboration and worrying about the numbers of names on a paper than women?

Because I think women are more inclined towards collaborative research and I think they’re more inclined to include people within their group as authors on their papers.

Mm. That’s just your experience from talking to other women?