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Male scientific sources quoted by the Spanish press triple the number of female sources: this is one of the conclusions of the studyThe visibility of Spanish female scientists, prepared by the Grupo de Estudios Avanzados de Comunicación (GEAC) – Group of Advanced Communication Studies – ofUniversidad Rey Juan Carlos, which has just been published by the Dr. Esteve Foundation. The work, led by professor Pablo Francescutti concludes that, of the 2,077 experts indexed in science texts, published by El País and La Vanguardia in 2016. 1,589 were by men (76.51%) and 488 by women (23.49%). These data provide a target basis to complaints from female researchers, as a result of their reduced public coverage.
Another parameter of visibility is provided by the photos illustrating texts. In portraits of scientists and in photos with research teams, males also triple female presence. Inequality is even further evident in obituaries, which showcase the contributions made by recently deceased researchers: women scientists who deserve an obituary do not reach six percent of the total number.
These discrepancies are related to the unequal share of work in writing, as the majority of texts published are prepared by male journalists (out of a total of 1,912 articles, 1,088 were written by men, compared to 416 by women writers). It is interesting to point out that women writers tend to cite female scientists more frequently (34% of scientific sources in their tests were females) than male writers (only 20% of expert sources were male researchers.
In 2009, another study of the CEAC observed the low presence of science in Spanish news programmes (only 1% of news), but this time, the team led by Francescutti has quantified this sub-representation of female scientists in the quality press. Based on the fact that women represent 39% of staff of the national R&D system, according to the report Female Scientists in figures 2015 2015, their participation in positions of responsibility is still a minority: in the academic circle, only 21% are female university professors, 10% are university rectors and 21% hold executive positions in research institutions. In public research organizations, there are only 25% of females in senior positions.
The study extends to fashion and beauty magazines, because, unlike the press – read by an eminently male public-, they attract female readers. The analysis of issues of Telva and Elle in 2016, shows their low scientific content, the majority featuring wellness and beauty, and the remaining dealing with gynaecology, innovative diets and awards to female researchers. Unlike newspapers, here women sources prevail (62% of the total). However, this feminization is blurred by the fact that, in 72.7% of cases, female experts were not acknowledged as authors of scientific findings or innovations, but merely to comment on concepts or the state of knowledge of their area.
If the above paragraphs refer to passive visibility, meaning the presence given by the media to female scientists, the blogosphere can quantify active visibility: the search of public coverage by female researchers themselves. Naukas, a digital platform, which unites a large number of Spanish scientific communicators, had 124 collaborators, 25 of which were female scientists. The portal Scilogs hosts bloggers, of which only four are women. And in the Blogs hosted in the platform Madri+d of the Madrid Region, only 11 were managed by female researchers out of a total of 108.
Without being marginal, it can be concluded that the visibility of women scientists can definitely be improved. With a view to increase, it is important to underline the positive contribution of research awards organized by the media and companies, since sexism is compensated in academic awards. The way that journalists incorporate more female experts in their list of contacts should be underlined, and the fact that they dedicate more interviews and obituaries to female researchers. And it ends by warning that the condition of "male club" of the blogosphere questions the hopes placed in Internet in pursuit of public coverage of female scientists.
The data were analysed on 20 November in a Debate on scientific journalism, organized by the Dr. Esteve . Foundation in Madrid, and moderated by Pablo Francescutti. The following journalists specialized in science took part: Michele Catanzaro (El Periódico de Catalunya), Mónica G. Salomone (freelance), Antonio Villarreal (El Confidencial), and the science blogger Marta Macho (Mujeres con ciencia), together with four representatives from the academic field: María Casado (Observatory of Bioethics and Law, Universitat de Barcelona), José Mª Martín Senovilla (Department of Theoretical Physics and History of Science, UPV/EHU), Juan José Moreno Balcázar (Department of Mathematics, Universidad de Almería) and Mª Teresa Ruiz Cantero (Public Health Research Group, Universidad de Alicante). The points of view of the eight participants in this debate have been incorporated in the GEAC study in this new publication of the Dr. Esteve Foundation. The visibility of Spanish female scientists, which can be requested in paper format or downloaded, free of charge, from our web page.