Global data missing on grant-making gender gap
Analysis of gender gap in grant awards highlights lack of data for global South.
- 19 May 2023
- 3 min read
- by SciDev.Net
A report into gender disparities in research funding has revealed a yawning gap in data about global South researchers, the authors say.
Recent analysis focused mostly on the US and Europe found that women received an average of US$342,000 in grant awards compared to US$659,000 for men.
But lead-author Karen Schmaling, a psychology professor at Washington State University, says the meta-analysis published this month in the journal Research Integrity and Peer Review, did not give a fully global picture.
It included one study each from Australia, Mexico, and Hong Kong but, “more data are needed to investigate gender differences globally, including in the global South”, Schmaling told SciDev.Net.
The study examined the outcomes of complex processes which lead to gender differences in science, including educational and funding opportunities, many of which likely begin in early childhood, says Schmaling.
“There are many points in this process that could change and lead to different outcomes,” she added.
“Our study, however, did not examine these earlier processes, but future research should do so.”
Chioma Chikere, professor of environmental microbiology and biotechnology at the University of Port Harcourt in Nigeria, says most female scientists in developing countries in Sub-Saharan Africa experience bullying, patriarchy, chauvinism and discrimination at their places of work, especially in higher education, making them jittery about competing with their male counterparts for funding opportunities in the first place.
“The issues of gender parity, diversity, equity, inclusivity seem to be unbalanced in the developing world making female researchers underrepresented in grants awards,” she told SciDev.Net.
Where women do make applications, support is often lacking, says Chikere.
“Female researchers do not have access to proper mentorship as early career scientists to guide them on good scientific communication skills for grants application,” she added.
“As such this gap limits their chances of preparing grant-winning proposals.”
The analysis by Schmaling and her team found that women were less likely to receive second grants to continue their research, with nine per cent fewer women approved for re-applications compared to their male counterparts.
“[This] finding is very important because researchers need continued funding to be productive,” she told SciDev.Net.
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“If researchers are not funded, they may stop conducting research and leave their field.
“Women were relatively underrepresented among those submitting proposals, suggesting some had withdrawn from pursuing research.”
The researchers used systematic review and meta-analysis to examine 55 studies on grant awards published between 2005 and 2020—representing more than 1.3 million applications.
While women account for more than half the global population, they remain underrepresented in scientific research, the analysis found. Only about 30 per cent of women actually applied for scientific study grants—even though women made up 36 per cent of eligible applicants.
Europe was found to be friendlier to women scientists, granting six per cent more awards to women researchers compared to the US.
The researchers called for a reevaluation of the granting process, including the composition of review committees and the applications approval process.
Francisca Mutapi, professor of global health infection and immunity and co-director of the University of Edinburgh’s Global Health Academy, says a “cultural and systemic change” is needed in the way research partnerships are run and funded more generally.
She says a shortage in postdoctoral researchers in Africa is fueled by a lack of funding.
“Any biases in funding exacerbate efforts to grow the numbers of African researchers,” she added.
This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Global desk.
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