Do women and men get equal credit for collaborative research?
No. Women get less credit.
Collaborative research can move science forward. But when it comes to moving scientific careers forward, collaboration is better for men than women.
The problem is twofold: women who work on research teams are less likely than men to be listed as coauthors on publications; and when they are listed as coauthors, they tend to benefit less.
The first pattern holds across scientific disciplines, based on data from nearly 10,000 research teams and 40,000 journal articles. Women who do collaborative research are systematically excluded from paper authorship.
But simply listing women coauthors won't create gender equality. A study tracking early-career economists shows that when it's unclear how much each author contributed to a paper—for instance, because they're listed alphabetically—women face a coauthorship penalty in tenure evaluations, but men don't. Tenure reviewers seem to assume men deserve more credit for shared publications, consistent with experiments showing bias in favor of men on masculine-typed group tasks.
If the alternative is not publishing or publishing in less prestigious journals, women still stand to benefit by coauthoring papers with men. Plus, reducing collaboration could hinder scientific discovery. So to continue co-publishing while mitigating bias, research teams should not only include all team members as authors, but also clearly communicate their contributions. For their part, tenure evaluators should carefully consider each author's role in group projects.