New Study: Gender Effect in Research Funding


We examined the application and review materials of three calls (n = 2,823) of a prestigious grant for personal research funding in a na- tional full population of early career scientists awarded by the Nether- lands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO). Results showed evidence of gender bias in application evaluations and success rates, as well as in language use in instructions and evaluation sheets. Male applicants received significantly more competitive “quality of re- searcher” evaluations (but not “quality of proposal” evaluations) and had significantly higher application success rates than female ap- plicants. Gender disparities were most prevalent in scientific disciplines with the highest number of applications and with equal gender dis- tribution among the applicants (i.e., life sciences and social sciences). Moreover, content analyses of the instructional and evaluation mate- rials revealed the use of gendered language favoring male applicants. Overall, our data reveal a 4% “loss” of women during the grant re- view procedure, and illustrate the perpetuation of the funding gap, which contributes to the underrepresentation of women in academia.

2 thoughts on “New Study: Gender Effect in Research Funding

  1. Something I find really interesting: The differences emerge in the areas with more women in the applicant pool (e.g. life sciences), and do not show up in e.g. physics. So critical mass is not (at least on its own) enough to correct for this. I’m fascinated, though, by the lack of effect in physics. My guess is that this is a selection effect– very few women make it through to this stage, and they’re so exceptional that we’re not going to see bias showing up. (Recall that the CV studies only show bias on the middling CVs, not the exceptional ones.)

  2. The ‘guess’ you offer is also the reason given by the authors of the article, in the accompanying 70-page report in Dutch (which was commissioned by the Dutch Research Council NWO).

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