The Impact of Gender on Scientific Writing: An Observational Study of Grant Proposals

Elsevier, Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, 2021
Marina Christ Franco, Danielle B. Rice, Helena Silveira Schuch, Odir Antonio Dellagostin, Maximiliano Sergio Cenci, and David Moher


This study aimed to determine whether there are differences in the language used in grant applications submitted to a Southern Brazil Research Support Foundation (FAPERGS) according to the gender, career stage, and the number of publications of applicants.
Study Design and Setting

This observational study also evaluated the relationship between gender, career stage, curriculum, and writing characteristics. Summaries of all research proposals in the biomedical field of FAPERGS during the years of 2013 and 2014 were evaluated according to six language patterns (Positive emotions, Negative emotions, Analytic thinking, Clout, Authenticity, and Emotional tone) defined by the LIWC software. Applicant's gender, career stage, and the number of publications were also collected.

Three hundred and forty-four (344) grant proposals met the inclusion criteria and were included in the analysis. No statistical differences were observed in the language pattern used by different gender applicants. In the language used by successful and unsuccessful applicants, we only found a small difference for clout (score 54.5 for not funded and 56.5 for funded grants). However, the principal investigators of successful applications had a significantly higher number of papers published (mean number of papers: 104 versus 58.5). Conclusions: Gender bias appears to be a more complex problem than just the type of language used; the way society is organized causes several gender biases that may be reflected throughout the women's career.