Does double-blind peer review impact gender authorship trends? An evaluation of two leading neurosurgical journals from 2010 to 2019

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  • 1 School of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio;
  • 2 Department of Neurosurgery, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California;
  • 3 University of California at Berkeley, California; and
  • 4 Department of Neurosurgery, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, Ohio
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OBJECTIVE

Publications are key for advancement within academia. Although women are underrepresented in academic neurosurgery, the rates of women entering residency, achieving board certification, and publishing papers are increasing. The goal of this study was to assess the current status of women in academic neurosurgery publications. Specifically, this study sought to 1) survey female authorship rates in the Journal of Neurosurgery (JNS [not including JNS: Spine or JNS: Pediatrics]) and Neurosurgery from 2010 to 2019; 2) analyze whether double-blind peer review (started in Neurosurgery in 2011) altered female authorship rates relative to single-blind review (JNS); and 3) evaluate how female authorship rates compared with the number of women entering neurosurgery residency and obtaining neurosurgery board certification.

METHODS

Genders of the first and last authors for JNS and Neurosurgery articles from 2010 to 2019 were obtained. Data were also gathered on the number and percentage of women entering neurosurgery residency and women obtaining American Board of Neurological Surgeons (ABNS) certification between 2010 and 2019.

RESULTS

Women accounted for 13.4% (n = 570) of first authors and 6.8% (n = 240) of last authors in JNS and Neurosurgery publications. No difference in rates of women publishing existed between the two journals (first authors: 13.0% JNS vs 13.9% Neurosurgery, p = 0.29; last authors: 7.3% JNS vs 6.0% Neurosurgery, p = 0.25). No difference existed between women first or last authors in Neurosurgery before and after initiation of double-blind review (p = 0.066). Significant concordance existed between the gender of first and last authors: in publications with a woman last author, the odds of the first author being a woman was increased by twofold (OR 2.14 [95% CI 1.43–3.13], p = 0.0001). Women represented a lower proportion of authors of invited papers (8.6% of first authors and 3.1% of last authors were women) compared with noninvited papers (14.1% of first authors and 7.4% of last authors were women) (first authors: OR 0.576 [95% CI 0.410–0.794], p = 0.0004; last authors: OR 0.407 [95% CI 0.198–0.751], p = 0.001). The proportion of women US last authors (7.4%) mirrors the percentage of board-certified women neurosurgeons (5.4% in 2010 and 6.8% in 2019), while the percentage of women US first authors (14.3%) is less than that for women entering neurosurgical residency (11.2% in 2009 and 23.6% in 2018).

CONCLUSIONS

This is the first report of female authorship in the neurosurgical literature. The authors found that single- versus double-blind peer review did not impact female authorship rates at two top neurosurgical journals.

ABBREVIATIONS ABNS = American Board of Neurological Surgery; JNS = Journal of Neurosurgery.

Supplementary Materials

    • Supplemental Figure and Tables (PDF 725 KB)

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Contributor Notes

Correspondence Corinna C. Zygourakis: Stanford University Medical Center, Stanford, CA. corinnaz@stanford.edu.

INCLUDE WHEN CITING Published online November 13, 2020; DOI: 10.3171/2020.6.JNS20902.

Disclosures Dr. Zygourakis: consultant for Stryker, Globus, and SpineDoc LLC.

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