Association of Author Gender With Sex Bias in Surgical Research

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Abstract

Importance

Previous studies demonstrate sex bias in surgical research. Female participants and investigators are underrepresented in surgical scientific research.

Objectives

To describe the distribution of male and female authors in 5 general-interest surgery journals, assess the association of author gender with sex bias, and explore whether investigators benefit from performing sex-inclusion research.

Design, Setting, and Participants

For this bibliometric analysis, data were abstracted from 1921 original, peer-reviewed articles published from January 1, 2011, through December 31, 2012, in Annals of Surgery, American Journal of Surgery, JAMA Surgery, The Journal of Surgical Research, and Surgery. Excluded articles pertained to a sex-specific disease or did not report the number of study participants. An additional 119 articles contained gender-ambiguous author names and were omitted. Data were analyzed from April to June 2017.

Main Outcomes and Measures

Male and female first and senior authors, number of female and male participants in each study, surgical specialty, and number of citations received per article.

Results

Of the 3604 authors of 1802 articles included in this study, 2791 first and senior authors (77.4%) were male and 813 (22.6%) were female. The prevalence of male and female authors was consistent across all 5 journals and among clinical and basic science research. Articles by female authors included a higher median number of female study participants compared with their male counterparts (27.5 vs 16.0; P = .01), but sex matched the inclusion of participants less frequently (36% vs 45%; P = .001). No sex-based differences occurred between male and female authors in reporting, statistical analysis, and discussion of the data or in the number of citations received. Compared with studies that did not report, analyze, or discuss data by sex, studies that performed sex-specific data reporting yielded a mean of 2.8 more citations (95% CI, 1.2-4.4; P = .001); those that performed statistical analysis, a mean of 3.5 more citations (95% CI, 1.8-5.1; P = .001); and those that discussed the data, a mean of 2.6 more citations (95% CI, 0.7-4.5; P = .001). Articles with a higher percentage of sex matching of participants also received more citations, with an increase of 1 citation per 4.8% (95% CI, 2.0%-7.7%; P = .001) increase in percentage of sex matching.

Conclusions and Relevance

Sex bias in surgical research is prevalent among male and female authors; however, female authors included proportionally more female participants in their studies compared with male authors. Notably, studies that addressed sex bias were rewarded by the scientific community with increased citations of their published work.

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