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Male Scientists More Proactive in Sharing Scientific Information

One cannot conduct scientific research on one’s own. If scientists are convinced that they can advance their research based on accumulated results and can build new discoveries and ways of thinking, they will publish it in a professional journal as an academic paper. It is reviewed whether the content is valid or not, and it will be published after screening. That becomes the researcher’s achievement. In other words, scientific research always involves information sharing with other researchers, and such sharing is habitual.

Recently a thesis titled “Sharing of science is most likely among male scientists” was published in Scientific Reports. When male scientists make request to other male scientists asking them to send their theses by e-mail, more than 80 percent of male scientists responded positively. However, in cases involving “female to male scientists”, “male to female scientists” and “female to female scientists”, the response rate was lower. Only in between male scientists, information-sharing traits were clearly high.

A team from Vienna University and others conducted this research. The author of this thesis who specializes in comparative psychology and social cognition requested 300 researchers in the relevant fields to send his/her recent thesis by e-mail. 78 percent responded to this request. As mentioned before, the “male to male” combination stood out with high response rate compared to the other three combinations. Among the other combinations like “female to female,” the response rate did not exceed that of “male to male” requests.

Since such papers must be published in academic journals and are open to the public, it is not difficult to respond to the above request. In this research, the group also went ahead to request experiment data. Having to respond to data request is a bigger hurdle than sending the paper which is the "final product". Yet, 59 percent of those who were inquired had accepted to provide experiment data. The mindframe to share one’s own information with other researchers was also high, but here again, the “male to male” combination scored higher than other combinations. When women were involved the combination, information sharing was not so active for both papers and data,

As for the reason why female scientists are reluctant to share scientific information, the thesis explains “females are not less willing to share, but simply have less time to answer e-mails due to their increased competitive environment”. The thesis also points out that there may be concerns among female scientists of how their research may get “scooped” or taken over by others. For men’s likeliness to share information, the thesis points out “evolutionary history” where “male bonds were promoted to cope with inter-group conflicts.” Men used to combat and fight together to protect themselves.

Recently in Japan, collaborative research across different fields and creation of new knowledge by scientists and citizens are being encouraged. This thesis from "Scientific Reports" tells us that even among peers in a field where information-sharing is habitual, psychological barriers still exist.