Neurosurg Focus. 2021 Mar;50(3):E3. doi: 10.3171/2020.12.FOCUS20939.
OBJECTIVE: A meta-analysis was performed to understand disparities in the representation of female authorship within the neurosurgical literature and implications for career advancement of women in neurosurgery.
METHODS: Author names for articles published in 16 of the top neurosurgical journals from 2002 to 2019 were obtained from MEDLINE. The gender of each author was determined using automated prediction methods. Publication trends were compared over time and across subdisciplines. Female authorship was also compared to the proportionate composition of women in the field over time.
RESULTS: The metadata obtained from 16 major neurosurgical journals yielded 66,546 research articles. Gender was successfully determined for 96% (127,809/133,578) of first and senior authors, while the remainder (3.9%) were unable to be determined through prediction methods. Across all years, 13.3% (8826) of articles had female first authorship and 9.1% (6073) had female senior authorship. Female first authorship increased significantly over time from 5.8% in 2002 to 17.2% in 2019 (p < 0.001). Female senior authorship also increased significantly over time, from 5.5% in 2002 to 12.0% in 2019 (p < 0.001). The journals with the highest proportions of female first authors and senior authors were the Journal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics (33.5%) and the Asian Journal of Neurosurgery (23.8%), respectively. Operative Neurosurgery had the lowest fraction of female first (12.4%) and senior (4.7%) authors. There was a significant difference between the year-by-year proportion of female neurosurgical trainees and the year-by-year proportion of female neurosurgical first (p < 0.001) and senior (p < 0.001) authors. Articles were also more likely to have a female first author if the senior author of the article was female (OR 2.69, CI 2.52-2.86; p < 0.001). From 1944 to 2019, the Journal of Neurosurgery showed a steady increase in female first and senior authorship, with a plateau beginning in the 1990s.
CONCLUSIONS: Large meta-analysis techniques have the potential to effectively leverage large amounts of bibliometric data to quantify the representation of female authorship in the neurosurgical literature. The proportion of female authors in major neurosurgical journals has steadily increased. However, the rate of increase in female senior authorship has lagged behind the rate of increase in first authorship, indicating a disparity in academic advancement in women in neurosurgery.