Women academics on fire, the sciences on ice

women academics on fire, the sciences on ice

I am passionate about the issue of women and academia; well, generally in everything that has to do with higher education and publications. Here I found several different issues, on two different levels.

The first level has to do with women’s access to higher education, which I won’t go this time. The other level is more sophisticated, if I can use the expression, and includes two issues in particular:

  1. The first is why women don’t have access to full professor positions, which I wrote about obliquely in another post about self-citations; being the reason, in short, their publications in journals.
  2. And the other is why there are fewer women holding professorships in STEM areas (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), which is what I will discuss or reflect here (women academics on fire, the sciences on ice).

The other day I received a McKinsey article on women; articles that are almost always good and interesting. It was called ‘How to attract US women to the sciences’, and was saying that “compared with their counterparts elsewhere, American women shun STEM fields of knowledge”.

The reasoning i not simple: it is not that science appeals less to women, or that they make it worse than men, which is almost the opposite, at least in high school (Mckinsey, 2013); but that they are less interested in choosing these types of grades at college. In other words, in general, women are not attracted to STEM sciences as a career option, the place where they will spend the rest of their lives….

  • And going further, it is not that women are not interested at all, it is that the alternatives are better, at least in developed countries, such as business, nursing or law (academic) careers; which now have better or equal prestige and opportunities than that of the STEM areas.
  • Additionally, it appears that academic careers in STEM areas are less rewarding for women, at least in terms of publications, since female scientists often get less credit than a comparatively male researcher, even if their work is similar.

If this is really so, that STEM science careers in academia is not so attractive to women, what can be done? Should we do something? Even if women themselves are against it? It may also be that women are not fascinated by the idea of ​​being in an academic world in which their work is less valued, even by themselves, and this indeed can be changed.

Self-citations, is it worth to work on them?

self-citations, is it worth doing them?Last week an article in The Economist (Promotion and Self-Promotion) treated the subject of self-citations in academia as common practice, but it did so to justify why women get less important academic positions than men in all fields of knowledge, because it looks like that female scientists cite less their own previous work when publish a paper their male peers.

    • Articles with all-male authors are more highly cited than papers with all-female ones, about 5 times, with an average of 25 citations per publication. And this is caused partly because male researchers self-cite more often.

Being cited is increasingly important, we don’t only need to publish in indexed journals with impact factor (citations of the journal), but it is also looked at the number of citations that our publications have. How far will this pressure go?

Thus, self-publishing is a way, at least in the short term, to increase citations, which arises a number of questions:

  1. In general, self-citations are seen as a form of self-promotion, and are therefore not well regarded, but, who are looking at the details of citations?
  2. If the article is written by several authors, is it self-citation? Is it less objectionable?
  3. Citations are dependent on many factors, such as your field of knowledge, the journal impact factor, the interest generated, etc… so, is it good enough the current citation metrics system?

The author of ‘Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus’, John Gray, holds a very interesting theory in his latest book (Venus on Fire, Mars on Ice): That women get to lower directive positions because they have less testosterone, that is, less ambition; that at some point in their careers they conform with what they have because of all the rest of activities that they have to do, as mothers, educators, housework, etc (as many men do, too). The truth is that this theory convinces me more than self-citations as a driver for promotion as professor.

Do you self-cite?  Or in other words, are you a male or female researcher?

A professor’s self-examination

a professor's self-examinationNow that the academic year is over and I am rested and recovered, it is time to do some self-assessment of how it went and to outline a plan for the coming year. This is a suggestion of questions for a self-examination as a professor.

First I have to be happy because I have the good fortune to be a university professor: it is a very varied, challenging and rewarding activity that allows me to make life better for others, to improve a little the world, and to grow as a person.

With respect to what is expected of me as a professor:

  • Did I prepare conveniently the classes?
  • Did I come to class on time? Did I go motivated or by mere compliance?
  • Did I correct/present the academic grades and other administrative documents on time?
  • Did I take the time to research and publish in academic journals? Did I seek to innovate in my research and contribute to the literature with my papers?

With respect to the others, students and colleagues:

  • Did I attend my students properly and with interest in their education?
  • How did I treat my peers? Did I willingly collaborate with them or did I just do the bare minimum required to meet my objectives?
  • Did I help other professors, for example from countries with fewer resources, to improve and publish, by providing my advice?
  • When a journal editor asked me to be a peer-reviewer, what did I do? Did I only accept if the journal had high impact factor?

With regard to myself and my goals:

  • Was I concerned about my training and reading to be a better teacher and researcher?
  • What was it that inspired my academic life: the others, improving the world, or else were the prestige and money?
  • Did I act as a professor normally in consciousness or was I driven by other motives such as obtaining publications, fear of losing the job, or what peers/students could say?

I understand that (academic) life is tough and stressful, and seeing how the things go in the world I’ll settle for the next course to fulfill my duties as a professor with students, to collaborate with my peers and to devote some time to study and research. And you?

Gaudeamus: 1.000 profs and editors building a better academic world

Let me use the poem Desiderata (Max Ehrmann, 1920) with other words: The world is full of trickery. But let this not blind us to what virtue there is; many profs strive for high ideals, and everywhere academic life is full of heroism.

Being a prof is great, doing what we know to do and what we love: researching, writing, teaching and spreading our knowledge to others. But we may sometimes also feel like pirates of the Caribbean, snake oil salesmen, proletarians, revolutionaries, parents and slaves. It is romantic, isn`t it?

Gaudeamus – the academic network for publishing in journals was born with this spirit, dedicated to build a better academic world helping scholars to get their research published in journals and enabling editors to find content.

This week we will reach 1.000 users: Journals and professors, researchers and editors, democratizing through Internet our common publishing knowledge.

Every day, many academics successfully find love with journal editors on Gaudeamus, so why not get started now?


Key factors when selecting a journal: poll results


Choosing the right journal where to send our paper is critical to avoid delays and have our paper publish where we want to, for example: in an indexed one, open access, without fees to authors and from the USA.

I anticipated two kinds of reasons (objective and subjective ones), believing that it was going to have a balance response, but the objective factors had more weight in the poll. I found intriguing two of the responses:

1.- The most popular reason is “Research published on your field is there”, even slightly above “Impact Factor”.

2.- “Fee to authors” is the less valued factor when deciding where to publish.


Soft is hard and hard is soft also for publishing in journals

My opinion about the results is that academics still place great importance into the objective (or hard) criteria: It is what most of the academics make when publishing, accessible to all, becoming this way the easy (or soft) part of the process, though not the successful one.

Instead, what is a priori the soft part, it is really the difficult (or hard) one, which is to learn from the experience with journals and using this information for future publications, networking with editors, adapting to their style and preferences, getting to know the underside of the journals, as its editorial board, its owner, quality criteria, etc… Do you use your soft skills to publish in journals?


* The poll was posted in April 2013 in many academic discussion groups. Around 1000 answers were collected.

Women, Academia and Science: some facts and ideas

In general, I have interest about the issue of gender in today’s society, but I had not related it to the world of education and academia, so I’ve started to document myself. To begin with I found a couple of interesting ideas, both interrelated.

women and academia

The first one is the Matilda Effect, which says the women scientists often get less credit than a comparatively male researcher, even if their work is similar.

And the second idea is what it is suggested by some very interesting statistics about women and academia, referred to STEM fields of knowledge (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics):

  • Female students’ global share in higher education is 41% in natural sciences and 21% in engineering (UNESCO, 2010).
  • Women’s share of doctoral degrees in engineering and science:
    • Republic of Korea         16% – 44%
    • European Union           33% (overall)
    • USA                                  21% – 31%
    • Japan                              12% – 27%
  • 27% of researchers in STEM sciences are women (OCDE, 2008):
    • Argentina, 51%, has the highest proportion in the world of women researchers. Argentina is in fashion: A Pope, a Queen, a Soccer Star and Gender Friendly in Academia!
    • USA, 41%. 30% professors.
    • Europe, 34%
    • Brazil, 25%
    • Japan, 14%
  • Researcher, publications and patents women ratios (Naldi et al, 2005):
    • Spain:                36%, 27% y 11%
    • Italy:                   33%, 26% y 6%
    • France:              31%, 25% y 9%
    • Sweden:            31%, 18% y 5%
    • UK:                     28%, 16% y 6%
    • Germany:          24%, 14% y 4%

And this is in Higher Education, where most of it is funded by governments, which are supposed to take care of these gender questions…

Many solutions are proposed medium term, as making STEM education friendly to women or changing policies to increase women’s share in research (Schiebinger, 2010), but I wonder if web 3.0. tools for academics may be part of the solutions, helping to balance women’s familiar and academic life.

Focus and Scope

blog 1This blog is focused on helping academics, my peers, to get their research published in journals. How? By doing what I know to do and what I love: researching, writing and spreading my knowledge to others, that is why I am a university professor.

It is not that I am a champion of publication in journals, that everything that I send it is published at the first or that I break publication records, it is not the case even remotely. But I have been able to identify several small things of which I believe are key in this topic, and which I would like to share:

  • To give it the importance that it deserves, neither much nor little.
  • To incorporate the routine and the obligation to publish into our complicated agendas.
  • To understand the network of participants in this business: editors, journal managers and owners, publishing companies or reviewers, among others.
  • To identify the journals in which to publish, which index category, quartile or relevance, country or specialty, and how often to do it.
  • To build useful relationships with publishers.
  • To develop a method for producing attractive articles for editors and readers.
  • And many other things.

This blog therefore is not aimed at successful lecturers, with great local or international recognition, who think they do not need to publish in journals, but rather it is aimed at professors like me, hungry, wanting to build a consistent int’l curriculum and experience, who desperately look for approaching the publishing process in a smart and agile way.

Well, almost nothing!

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