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Views And Reviews

Medical journals must tackle gender bias

BMJ 2019; 367 doi: (Published 08 October 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;367:l5888
  1. Julie K Silver, associate professor and associate chair
  1. Department of Physical Medicine, Harvard Medical School, USA
  1. Julie_Silver{at}
    Follow Julie on Twitter @JulieSilverMD

When women doctors and scientists face barriers to publication and journal leadership, the pace of discovery slows and critical perspectives are lost

Reports demonstrate gender bias in academic medicine, and an important subset of this evidence focuses on journal level disparities—for example, the numbers of women authors, reviewers, and editors. An abundance of research shows women in academia, including medicine, face more barriers to publishing than men.

Barriers are wide ranging and multifactorial. Bias harms scientific discovery, and when it occurs at a journal level there are also financial implications. If a researcher faces barriers to publication, this affects organisations that financially support her work (such as employers and grant funders), and their return on investment is not fully realised.

Journal owners, some of which are medical societies, have an obligation to tackle both conscious (explicit) and unconscious (implicit) bias. Firewalls exist between medical society owners and their journals. These are in place to avoid conflicts of interest …

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