A new study has found that feminist theory research is 20 percent less likely to be funded than research on racial and ethnic theory, a funding disparity that may be even greater when feminist research is compared to academic research at large.
Polish researcher Aleksandra Cisłak-Wójcik published her study “Bias Against Research on Gender Bias” in the most recent issue of Scientometrics, an international academic journal that focuses on the quantitative issues surrounding scientific research.
While previous studies have looked at feminist theory research more generally, this is the first to use a comparative approach — comparing the publication outcomes of feminist theory research to those of another social justice topic: racial and ethnic issues.
The researchers catalogued nearly 1,000 studies published in journals dedicated to either racial justice or feminist theory. Then they determined if each article had received funding, and how prestigious of a journal the article was published in.
Cisłak-Wójcik was not surprised that the results showed feminist theory was 20 percent less likely to get funded. And that, if the research was funded, it was placed in a much less prestigious journal than expected.
For Cisłak-Wójcik, this points to an “underappreciation” of feminism. Journals assessed included Gender and Society and Sex Roles. They publish articles on issues such as gender non-conformity and masculinity.
“Even more sadly, when presenting our findings, numerous gender bias researchers were not surprised either, and provided us with lots of anecdotal evidence on how difficult it may be to publish a gender bias paper,” she told PJ Media by email.
Her study did find another interesting result. Despite previous studies suggesting that women are less likely to get research published at all, Cisłak-Wójcik found that the number of women on a research team had no effect on whether their study would be funded or published.
It’s the topic of research that matters, not who’s doing it. Many universities simply don’t want to fund research on feminist theory regardless of who wants to conduct it.
Going forward, Cisłak-Wójcik says education is key: “We hope that our study will help to pave the way for increasing public awareness on this. As past research shows, decision-makers are able to reduce discrimination at least to some extent when they are aware of the potential sources of the bias,” told PJ Media.
She suggests universities take action. The difficulty for feminist theory researchers to publish work suggests an unfair penalization in career advancement, as publications typically are needed for tenure and promotion.
“In the short term, fixing this problem might require considering measures such as grants dedicated to fund research on gender … Increasing the social importance and prominence of the topic — the #metoo movement, for example — may be one way of changing that pattern also within academia in the long run,” she added.
Tamar Saguy of the Interdisciplinary Research Center in Herzliya, Israel, and Magdalena Formanowicz of the University of Bern in Switzerland also helped with this study.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen.