Gender inequalities among authors who contributed equally

Elife. 2019 Jan 29:8:e36399. doi: 10.7554/eLife.36399.


We analyzed 2898 scientific papers published between 1995 and 2017 in which two or more authors shared the first author position. For papers in which the first and second authors made equal contributions, mixed-gender combinations were most frequent, followed by male-male and then female-female author combinations. For mixed-gender combinations, more male authors were in the first position, although the disparity decreased over time. For papers in which three or more authors made equal contributions, there were more male authors than female authors in the first position and more all-male than all-female author combinations. The gender inequalities observed among authors who made equal contributions are not consistent with random or alphabetical ordering of authors. These results raise concerns about female authors not receiving proper credit for publications and suggest a need for journals to request clarity on the method used to decide author order among those who contributed equally.

Keywords: co-authorship; gender bias; gender equity; human biology; infectious disease; medicine; microbiology; none; publication; scientific credit.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Authorship*
  • Bibliometrics*
  • Biomedical Research / ethics
  • Female
  • Gender Identity
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Periodicals as Topic / ethics*
  • Socioeconomic Factors*

Grants and funding

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.