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Front. Big Data | doi: 10.3389/fdata.2019.00029

Reflections on Gender Analyses of Bibliographic Corpora

 Helena Mihaljević1*, Marco Tullney2,  Lucía Santamaría3 and Christian Steinfeldt1
  • 1University of Applied Sciences, Germany
  • 2German National Library of Science and Technology (TIB), Germany
  • 3Amazon Development Center, Germany

The interplay between an academic's gender and their scholarly output is
a riveting topic at the intersection of scientometrics, data science,
gender studies, and sociology. Its effects can be studied to analyze the
role of gender in research productivity, tenure and promotion standards,
collaboration and networks, or scientific impact, among others. The
typical methodology in this field of research is based on a number of
assumptions that are customarily not discussed in detail in the relevant
literature, but undoubtedly merit a critical examination. Presumably the
most confronting aspect is the categorization of gender. An author's
gender is typically inferred from their name, further reduced to a
binary feature by an algorithmic procedure. This and subsequent data
processing steps introduce biases whose effects are hard to estimate.
In this report we describe said problems and discuss the reception
and interplay of this line of research within the field. We also outline
the effect of obstacles such as non-availability of data and code
for transparent communication. Building on our research
on gender effects on scientific publications, we challenge the
prevailing methodology in the field and offer a critical reflection on
some of its flaws and pitfalls. Our observations are meant to open up
the discussion around the need and feasibility of more elaborated
approaches to tackle gender in conjunction with analyses of
bibliographic sources.

Keywords: gender, reproducibility, data science, Bias, Societal issues, science studies, Automatic Gender Recognition

Received: 08 Apr 2019; Accepted: 13 Aug 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Mihaljević, Tullney, Santamaría and Steinfeldt. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Mx. Helena Mihaljević, University of Applied Sciences, Berlin, Germany, Helena.Mihaljevic@HTW-Berlin.de