REF 2021: female academics ‘much less likely’ to be submitted

Ethnicity and disability status also significant factors influencing likelihood of researchers being submitted, report finds

七月 13, 2023
The young woman sits alone on the beach and admires the sea. In front of her are several people on the beach. Romania, Costinesti. August, 19, 2022
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Female scientists were much less likely than their male counterparts to be submitted for assessment in the last Research Excellence Framework (REF), according to an analysis.

Overall, while women represented 42 per cent of staff potentially eligible to enter the REF 2021, the ratio of female to male staff among those submitted was 38 per cent to 62 per cent, according to a report published by the REF’s Equality and Diversity Advisory Panel on 13 July.

However, inequalities were far worse in some disciplinary areas, with “statistically significant effects observed for three of the four main panels”, it states.

The biggest gap in submission rates by sex was for Panel A, which covers medical and health sciences, where 84 per cent of eligible male staff were submitted compared with 63 per cent of women – a 21 percentage point difference.

For panel B, covering physics and engineering, the submission gap was 5 percentage points, and for Panel C, covering social sciences, the gap was 10 percentage points.

For women who worked part-time, there was even greater “negative skew” in most panels apart from Panel A.

In addition, women also submitted fewer outputs on average than men – two outputs per submitted researcher compared with 2.29 for men. For panel A, the difference was greater, with women submitting 1.97 outputs on average compared with 2.37 for men.

According to one academic quoted in the report, these submission gaps demonstrated that “the selection of outputs…reinforces existing gender imbalances”, although others noted that “under-representation was not necessarily due to the impact of REF processes, but rather that the exercise highlighted existing structural inequalities that were common in the sector”.

Other disparities were also noticeable in the REF 2021 data, the report notes. Black staff were much less likely to be submitted than white academics, with just 53.4 per cent of potentially eligible black staff selected for the REF compared with 75.3 per cent of white eligible staff.

For those of black British Caribbean heritage, the figure was just 37.2 per cent – amounting to just 150 researchers entering the REF overall.

Those academics who disclosed a disability were also less likely to have been submitted to the REF, with 64 per cent submitted compared with 77 per cent who did not disclose a disability.

However, gay, lesbian and bisexual academics did not seem to face any disadvantage in terms of REF submission rates – with slightly more selected proportionally (75 per cent) than heterosexual researchers.

Commenting on the outcomes, the report says the results should be “situated in the wider evidence base about inequalities in research careers. This ranges from the stark picture painted by data on increasing under-representation of some groups through the research career stages through to evidence about differences in key areas of research activity and performance, such as grant funding, citations and so on, that collectively highlight the structural inequalities permeating the research landscape,” it says.



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