Objective We evaluated the temporal trend in gender ratios of first and last authors in the field of oncological research published in major general medical and oncology journals and examined the gender pattern in coauthorship.
Design We conducted a retrospective study in PubMed using the R package RISmed. We retrieved original research articles published in four general medical journals and six oncology specialty journals. These journals were selected based on their impact factors and popularity among oncologists. We identified the names of first and last authors from 1 January 2002 to 31 December 2019. The gender of the authors was identified and validated using the Gender API database (https://gender-api.com/).
Primary and secondary outcome measures The percentages of first and last authors by gender and the gender ratios (male to female) and temporal trends in gender ratios of first and last authors were determined.
Results We identified 34 624 research articles, in which 32 452 had the gender of both first and last authors identified. Among these 11 650 (33.6%) had women as the first author and 7908 (22.8%) as the last author, respectively. The proportion of female first and last authors increased from 26.6% and 16.2% in 2002, to 32.9% and 27.5% in 2019, respectively. However, the gender ratio (male to female) of first and last authors decreased by 1.5% and 2.6% per year, respectively, which were statistically significant (first author: incidence rate ratio (IRR) 0.98, 95% CI 0.97 to 1.00; last author: IRR 0.97, 95% CI 0.96 to 0.99). Male first and last authorship was the most common combination. Male–female and female–female pairs increased by 2.0% and 5.0%, respectively (IRR 1.02, 95% CI 1.01 to 1.03 and IRR 1.05, 95% CI 1.04 to 1.06, respectively).
Conclusions The continued under-representation of women means that more efforts to address parity for advancement of women in academic oncology are needed.