Visualizing gender diversity in research outputs at the University of Basel

Executive Summary

Monitoring of diversity is an important first step towards reducing inequalities in access to scientific innovation and research. We contribute to monitoring of author diversity in research outputs at the University of Basel by conducting an analysis of gender distribution in scientific publications. We categorized authors’ gender based on authors’ first names and visualized temporal trends between 2000 and 2020 in gender distribution for all 7 faculties of the University of Basel. Our results for the University of Basel match similar reports of gender publication gaps in the sciences: Over the past 20 years, there were overall more publications involving males relative to females (69% vs. 31%). Crucially, we find large differences across faculties and author positions (first vs. last) suggesting that targeted measures may be needed for different organizational units and career stages.


Why does diversity matter?

Achieving gender equality (SDG 5) and reducing inequalities (SDG10) are central parts of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Universities can play a key role in advancing these goals by empowering women and disadvantaged minorities to allow them to make contributions to scientific innovation and research. The University of Basel is strongly committed to monitoring and increasing diversity of its staff and student population in a number of efforts spearheaded by its Diversity Office.

Why does monitoring of research outputs matter?

Monitoring diversity is a first step towards identifying inequalities and potential solutions to reduce them. As a consequence, there have been continued efforts on the part of the Diversity Office of the University of Basel to monitor diversity, for example, in the form of an Equal opportunities monitoring. However, the monitoring of the gender employment gap does not fully capture all aspects of equal opportunities. The monitoring of research outputs can be helpful as an additional indicator because it has the potential to reflect access to resources (e.g., time, internal funding) that go beyond employment and are otherwise not easily quantifiable.

The flow diagram below presents a framework distilled from the existing literature that lists some factors that may contribute to a widening gap between employment and academic output (e.g. Huang et al., 2020; Ni et al. 2021, Odic & Woicik, 2020).

To the extent that factors leading to the employment gap are the same or correlated with the factors leading to publication success, one can expect the publication gap to be of the same or greater magnitude than the employment gap. Past work suggests that females are more likely to dedicate more time to teaching, have more family responsibilities, and receive less funding and recognition, each of these contributing to a widening of the gender publication gap over time relative to the extant employment gap. Monitoring the publication gap and, ideally, its underlying causes - particularly the available institutional resources - could be an important contribution of higher-education institutions to advancing equal opportunities in science and innovation.

Goals of this Report


Research Output of the University of Basel

We use data from a database listing the University of Basel’s research output. We focus on data between 2000 and 2020 because availability for earlier years is limited and this time range allows some comparability to previous efforts (e.g., Odic & Wojcik, 2019). We focus our analyses on University of Basel’s 7 faculties and neglect smaller associated institutes because there is a relatively large number of institutes with relatively few publications that make it difficult to consider trends over time.

We analyze a total 64268 research outputs of various kinds, which consist of journal articles (64.1%), book chapters (18.4%), books (edited and authored; 5.4%), proceedings articles (3.1%), theses (2.6%), and other items such as news articles (6.5%).

Diversity Labeling from Author First Names

We use information concerning diversity derived from the authors’ first names. We recruited existing publicly available services (e.g., to determine each author’s individual characteristics, such as gender. Estimates are provided based on the services’ databases that include hundreds of thousands of confirmed mappings between first names and individuals’ characteristics. The figure below shows the most frequent male (left) and female (right) names as identified by Additional details are provided on the Data page.

Our report focuses on gender in line with the majority of past monitoring of diversity at the University of Basel and other similar efforts. Ideally, however, diversity should be conceptualized through several dimensions, that could include cultural and socio-economic background, political views, age, nationality, or religion, to name but a few. In our efforts, we strove to include different dimensions beyond gender, namely, nationality and age. Our simple validation efforts suggested, however, that such categorizations are unreliable so we refrain from reporting results concerning these dimensions below. We discuss limitations of our approach and alternative methods in the Limitations sections.


Our analyses used first names to estimate the gender of authors using extant technology. This classification system assigns names to either “female” or “male”, thus, providing a traditional, binary classification of gender. The contributors would like to state that this choice is of technical and pragmatic nature and should not be understood as a rejection of more inclusive, non-binary gender definitions.

Employment Information of the University of Basel

We also use data from the Equal opportunities monitoring concerning the percentage of females in different positions (i.e., professorships, academic staff) available for the period 2013-2019. We provide this information along side with our results for publications so as to give context concerning the gender distribution in employment for each faculty.

The Publication Gender Gap at the University of Basel

Past work has show a publication gender gap in the sciences (e.g., Huang, Gates, Sinatra, & Barabási, 2020; Ni, Smith, Yuan, Larivière, & Sugimoto, 2021; Odic & Wojcik, 2020). In what follows, we assess the publication gender gap at the University of Basel based on the outputs available in the university’s research database. The figure below (upper panel) shows the main result of our analysis which makes visible the publication gap over time separately for each of the 7 faculties of the University of Basel for the period 2000-2020. The lower panel provides context by showing information concerning the percentage of female scientists reported in the University of Basel’s Equal opportuntities monitoring that is available for the period 2013-2020.

Faculty Pubs Multi-author Pubs Total % Fem 2000 % Fem 2020 % Fem Diff %
Business & Economics 1668 970 10 2 19 17
Humanities & Social Sciences 16260 3531 35 26 42 16
Law 5687 1626 35 28 35 7
Medicine 11811 11119 28 16 36 20
Natural Sciences 16592 14176 24 16 27 12
Psychology 2959 2518 38 23 47 23
Theology 1707 298 27 38 20 -18

The Publication Gender Gap at the University of Basel: The Role of Seniority

One possibility to further understand and characterize the dynamics in research productivity is to understand the role of senior and junior researchers and their relative contributions to publications. First authorship is typically (albeit not always) associated with junior academic roles in publications involving multiple authors, while last authorship typically cues seniority. Consequently, distinguishing between first and last authorship can allow us to consider trends in the publication gender gap as a function of career stage, which may be important to devise specific interventions that target more or less senior researchers. When considering these analysis and, particularly, comparing between faculties, it should be noted that field differ dramatically in the number of multi-author publications (see table above) and determination of authorship order follows different practices across fields (e.g., alphabetical order in economics). Below, we show the breakdown of the publication gap by first vs. last author for publications involving multiple authors. Again, we also present the percentage of female scientists employed in each faculty over time for additional context.

Key Findings


There are a number of limitations associated with the results we present above, we list and discuss a few of these below.



Huang, J., Gates, A. J., Sinatra, R., & Barabási, A.-L. (2020). Historical comparison of gender inequality in scientific careers across countries and disciplines. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 117(9), 4609–4616.

Ni, C., Smith, E., Yuan, H., Larivière, V., & Sugimoto, C. R. (2021). The gendered nature of authorship. Science Advances, 7(36), eabe4639.

Odic, D., & Wojcik, E. H. (2020). The publication gender gap in psychology. American Psychologist, 75(1), 92–103.