Academia’s out and proud publish more

Academics who did not disclose sexual orientation more likely to produce fewer papers, according to surveys

三月 3, 2022
Gay Pride parade in Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK - September 5, 2017 - two people put their arms around each other under a rainbow flag as they march in the parade
Source: iStock

Academics who identify as LGBTQA and are open about their sexual orientation at work publish more papers than those who do not disclose such identities to colleagues, according to a study.

Researchers based in the US carried out two surveys in a bid to find out more about the relationship between academic productivity and disclosure of LGBTQA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or asexual) identity.

Both surveys found that non-disclosure was associated with LGBTQA researchers in science, technology, engineering and maths fields publishing fewer peer-reviewed publications.

However, the second and larger survey, which also compared the research productivity of LGBTQA academics with scientists identifying as straight and cisgender, also found that those who were open about sexual orientation had publication counts “more like non-LGBTQA participants than those who did not disclose”.

The authors of the study, published in Plos One, say the results indicate two possibilities: that being open about sexuality “facilitates productivity” by reducing stress and boosting workplace satisfaction; or that “productivity facilitates disclosure” as more productive individuals feel more secure about “taking the risks associated with disclosure”.

However, the results from the second survey showed no evidence that LGBTQA academics who had been open about their sexual orientation had seen faster career advancement than other groups, something the authors say that might be expected if productivity had facilitated disclosure.

“This lack of differences in the timing of career advancement suggests that the underlying cause of the association between disclosure and publication rates is more likely the cost of non-disclosure to LGBTQA-identified individuals…rather than disclosure becoming available to more productive LGBTQA-identified individuals,” the paper says.

Overall, it says, the results “are most consistent with a productivity cost to non-disclosure of LGBTQA identity”, something that suggests there is a “concrete need” to improve the working environment for such minority groups.

The paper was authored by Joey Nelson of Stanford University with Allison Mattheis and Jeremy Yoder, both of California State University.

Dr Yoder, assistant professor in the department of biology at California State University, Northridge, told Times Higher Education that a key result from one of the surveys was that campus and employer policies appeared vital to creating a “safe and welcoming” atmosphere that enabled people to be open about their identity if they wanted to be.

“This can be everything from explicit inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity in non-discrimination policies to recognition of Pride month, to making it easier for folks to change their names in university records when they transition to their true gender identity,” he said.

“Many of these policies can add up to a workplace climate that makes it feel safe to disclose LGBTQ identities, without necessarily requiring that disclosure.”



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