According to a review of studies, women researchers received less grant money on average than men. The study found that women’s average grant award was about $342,000, while men’s average grant award was $659,000.
Despite equal numbers of women and men being approved for funding in first-time grant applications, women were less likely to receive second grants to continue their research. In fact, 9% fewer women who reapplied were approved compared to men.
Lead author Karen Schmaling, a psychology professor at Washington State University, Vancouver, said that the gaps in funding and success rates are real barriers to women’s long-term success in research and a problem for science itself.
Karen Schmaling, the lead author of the study, highlighted that diversity is usually associated with creativity and scientific progress. She said that if gender, race, ethnicity, and nationality are not well represented in science, then scientific progress may be impacted. In other words, if women are not given equal funding and opportunities as men, it could negatively impact the quality and diversity of scientific research.
The study, which was published in the journal Research Integrity and Peer Review, reviewed 55 studies on grant awards that were published between 2005 and 2020. Karen Schmaling, the lead author of the study, and Stephen Gallo of the American Institute of Biological Sciences, analyzed data from more than 1.3 million grant applications worldwide, although most of the data came from the U.S. and Europe.
The analysis found that women are underrepresented in scientific research, despite being more than half of the world’s population. The study found that only 36% of women were eligible to apply for grants, and out of those, only 30% actually submitted an application.
The analysis discovered that men generally requested more money than women when applying for research grants. But in two studies where both men and women requested similar amounts, women still received less funding, which implies that there might be a bias against women’s research.
According to the analysis, Europe awarded more grants to women scientists than the US. In Europe, women received about 6% more grants than in the US. The authors of the study believe this may be due to Europe having better gender equality policies than the US, which is ranked 53rd out of 153 countries in terms of gender equality.
The findings indicate a need to reevaluate the granting process itself, including the composition of review committees and the way they approve applications.
“Many funding agencies value what’s called ‘bibliometric measures’ of someone’s success, such as how many papers they’ve published and how many people cited those papers,” said Gallo. “Those measures are deeply biased and flawed, and don’t necessarily reflect differences in scientific excellence. It might be time to move away from them.”
According to Gallo, many funding agencies rely on “bibliometric measures” to assess a researcher’s success, such as the number of papers they have published and how many people have cited those papers. However, Gallo believes that these measures are biased and do not accurately reflect a researcher’s scientific excellence. Therefore, he suggests that funding agencies should consider alternative methods of evaluation.
These types of things help entrench an already unbalanced system, and supporting women scientists throughout their careers is key to fixing this imbalance, Schmaling said.
The lead author Karen Schmaling emphasized the importance of providing equal opportunities to women in science at an early stage. She suggested that true change could only be achieved by encouraging and providing opportunities to young women scientists before and during their careers. According to Schmaling, opportunities that are less frequently extended to women start early on, and addressing this issue is crucial to achieving gender equality in science, especially in the U.S.
This research received support from the National Science Foundation.