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In this issue | PNAS


Impact of inequalities on scientific progress

The scientific enterprise is plagued by racial and gender disparities. Diego Kozlowski et al. investigated how the intersection of race and gender affects the choice of research topic and, therefore, the expansion of scientific knowledge. The authors analyzed the gender, race, research subject and impact of the first authors of more than 5 million research articles published between 2008 and 2019 and indexed in the Web of Science database. The authors assigned the first 1,609,107 US-based authors a probable gender based on census and country data for first names, with the limitation that the method inferred sex in a binary fashion. Likely race, a social construct that differs from country to country, was inferred using 2010 US Census data for surnames and racial groups. The impact was measured using quotes. Among the results of the study, the authors report that marginalized groups, such as black and Latin women, were overrepresented in subjects with low citations and less cited than other groups in all health subjects. Taken together, the results suggest that the choice of research topic is related to the race and gender of the researchers, and a lack of diversity limits the expansion of scientific knowledge. According to the authors, the scientific enterprise should increase the participation of minority groups and the funding of historically underfunded areas of research in order to enable equitable scientific progress. – THD

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