Scientific studies published by female authors attracted more student readers than those by male authors, a new study has revealed.
University of Wolverhampton Professor of Data Science Mike Thelwall believes the findings suggest female authors may have an unrecognised effect on students' education.
He said their scientific impact may be undervalued by citation metrics in some countries.
To conduct the research, Professor Thelwall obtained sets of articles with known first author gender from all narrow fields and five countries from 2014. He compared average Scopus citation counts and Mendeley reader counts between male first-authored and female first-authored articles in each set.
The study showed that female authored pieces across 100 subjects attracted up to six per cent more student readers than male authors.
Professor Thelwall cautions early career scientists, particularly female researchers, to look beyond citations for evidence that their research has a broader impact.
He said: "There are known gender imbalances in participation in scientific fields, from female dominance of nursing to male dominance of mathematics. It is not clear whether there is also a citation imbalance, with some claiming that male-authored research tends to be more cited. No previous study has assessed gender differences in the readers of academic research on a large scale, however.
"The results give evidence, for the first time, that female-authored research is more likely to be read by undergraduates, master’s students and junior researchers (with a partial exception of India) than male-authored research within the same narrow subject field."