Open Access and Gender Equity in Academia
Gender equity in academia refers to equal opportunities and treatment for individuals of all genders in the academic world, including in areas such as hiring, promotions, salaries, and recognition. Achieving gender equity in academia is important for creating a fair and just society and for promoting diversity and inclusion in the academic community.
Mind the (gender) gap!
The participation of women in science is steadily growing, but not without gender disparities in authorship, impact, and citations. The scenario in the social sciences and humanities is not very different. A recent study in Vietnam showed that while authorship of publications during 2008–2019 by Vietnamese women increased appreciably, the number of women as first authors remained lower than that of men. Further, despite comparable annual rates of publishing for men and women, differences in publishing career lengths and dropout rates have been found to lower the productivity and impact of female authors.
Could open access (OA) publishing offer a way to increase the participation and impact of female researchers?
How OA publishing can help close the gender gap
Open science and OA are crucial to promote transparency and accountability in academic research. OA allows for greater accessibility to research findings and can lead to more rapid advancements in various fields. OA might also hold the key to offer opportunities that can speed up the closing of the gender gap in academia. Here are some ways this could happen:
Increased visibility, impact, and productivity: OA publishing makes research available to a wider audience, including individuals without access to subscription-based journals. This can increase the visibility of female researchers and their work. In the same vein, OA publishing might increase their chances of being cited. With appropriate supporting systems and funding, OA publishing has even been shown to increase the productivity (broadly, the number of papers, books, and citations) of female researchers.
Career advancement: This OA-enabled high visibility and productivity can help female researchers receive more recognition for their work, improving their chances of career progression, promotions, and securing funding.
Access to funding and collaborations: Funding agencies are increasingly requiring that research be made freely available to the public. OA publishing can help female researchers secure funding from reputed granting bodies for their work. Similarly, OA publishing may also herald opportunities for collaboration, thereby creating gender diverse research teams.
Encouraging women researchers to choose OA
It is rather startling to note the reported negative association between female authorship and the likelihood to publish OA. Various inequalities might be limiting the ability of women to make the most of publishing OA. For example, there might be gender differences in income and the amount of scientific funding received. This gender gap in income might restrict female researchers to subscription-based journals their institute has access to.
It is clear that steps must be taken to encourage women to publish their research OA. Here are some possible ways to usher in such changes:
Awareness campaigns: Raising awareness of the benefits of OA publishing can encourage more women to consider publishing their work in this manner.
Funding support: Providing funding support to cover the costs associated with OA publishing, such as article processing charges (APCs), can make it more accessible for women who may otherwise be unable to afford it. Needless to say, gender pay gaps should not exist!
Mentorship and networking: Opportunities should be provided to women to connect with experienced authors who have published OA, who can offer guidance on OA publishing processes and nuances. A huge hurdle faced is the high APC of OA publishing, particularly for researchers from low- and middle-income countries. Collaboration with researchers from higher income countries can help offset the financial burden.
Incentives: Discounted or waived APCs or special recognition for OA publication can encourage more women to consider publishing their work OA.
Representation: Ensuring that women are represented in editorial positions and on the boards of OA journals can help to create a more supportive and inclusive environment for women who wish to publish their research in this way.
OA publishing can play a role in promoting gender equity by increasing the visibility and recognition of female researchers, providing opportunities for career advancement and funding. Both OA and gender equity in academia are important for advancing knowledge and promoting fairness and equality in the academic community. It is important to recognize the need for the open science movement alongside gender diversity inclusion. While OA can help achieve gender parity in research, the converse also holds true: a truly gender diverse publication landscape will add impetus to the OA movement!