PSA2016: The 25th Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association

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Citation Rates and Gender in Philosophy of Science

Citations serve various functions: they situate a claim inside an academic conversation, they point to more detailed justification, they give credit to prior research. Citations also provide easily measurable external validation of epistemic uptake, and are frequently used as one criterion for tenure and promotion. Thus, accruing citations both signals and creates a researcher's reputation.

Researchers have some latitude to cite or not cite for reasons related to perceived quality or relevance. This latitude creates the possibility that judgment will be based on something other than merit and might be influenced by gender or institutional bias. A massive study of citation rates across the sciences showed that research with women as the primary author is cited less often than publications with men as the primary author (Larivière et al. 2013). However, Kieran Healy's significant study of four preeminent philosophy journals found that work by women authors is cited at a rate proportional to their publication rate (2015).

Reasons to look more specifically at citation rates in philosophy of science include:
- Gender balance. Women's participation rate in philosophy of science is lower than in philosophy in general.
- Gender awareness. STEM disciplines have been a prominent locus of programs supporting women's professional participation.
- Reflexivity. Philosophers of science investigate the social production of knowledge and the criteria for epistemic equality, and so we have a vested interest in understanding how our own epistemic community functions.

I drew data from Web of Science citation reports for articles in seven philosophy of science journals published from 2005-2009 (a time lag allows citations to accumulate). The study counted citations to articles published in the three general philosophy of science journals Philosophy of Science, The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, and Studies in History and Philosophy of Science and to the four specialized journals Biology & Philosophy, Philosophy of the Social Sciences, Studies in the History and Philosophy of Modern Physics, and Foundations of Physics. The data included 980 articles and 781 authors.

The publication rate of women authors was 14%, statistically comparable to PSA membership. The average citation count for a single-authored paper by a woman was 7.8 and the average citation count for a single-authored paper by a man was 7.0. This is not a statistically significant difference (p = 0.4).

Coauthorship is patterned according to gender. Of the 148 coauthored papers, 24% had at least one female author and 98% had at least one male author, showing women collaborate at lower rates. Since coauthored papers receive higher citation rates, this trend diminished the overall citation rate for women authors.

The study also reveals interesting patterns regarding subspecialties and the percentage of uncited articles.

Healy, K. 2015. Gender and citation in four general-interest philosophy journals, 1993-2013.

Larivière, V., Ni, C, Gingras, Y., Cronin, B. & Sugimoto, C. 2013. Global gender disparities in science. Nature 504: 211-213.

Author Information:

Evelyn Brister    
Rochester Institute of Technology


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