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[NEW DELHI] A gender profile of Indian scientific output in the life sciences sees women trailing  behind men in productivity and impact.
The study, published online this month (8 August) in Scientometrics, found that of 9,957 life science papers published during 2008—2009, female scientists were sole contributors in just 3.4 per cent of them and joint-contributors in another 47 per cent. 
K. C. Garg, an author of the study and former chief scientist, National Institute of Science Technology and Development under the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, told SciDev.Net that he chose life sciences because no such study using large data sets exists on the contribution of women scientists in India.
"Though women earned 37 per cent of all science PhDs awarded by Indian institutions, they constituted only 15 per cent of the total R&D manpower in science and technology," the paper said.
According to the study, female scientists tend to work in small teams, publish in low-impact, domestic journals and contribute to fewer international collaborative papers than men.
The authors say the findings are in consonance with similar studies in other parts of the world. A 2009 study carried out in the US on patenting activities in the biotechnology industry found women’s share in applications to be just four per cent.
Questioning the reliability of the study, Indira Nath, emeritus professor, National Institute of Pathology under the Indian Council of Medical Research, Delhi, told SciDev.Net: "The window period examined for publications is too narrow — for a single year and only in the life sciences." 
Nath said it would have been better to start from the point where women first began entering science fields in large numbers and see how they have progressed since. "We would then get a better idea of whether the glass ceiling is self-induced (due to child bearing gaps for example) or if it was driven by a patriarchal society." 
Rohini M. Godbole, professor at the Centre for High Energy Physics, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, agrees with Nath’s view and says the "conclusions are sweeping".
"To say that women were writing much less than men and published only in domestic journals based on just one year’s data, that too only in biological sciences, does not seem quite appropriate," Godbole told SciDev.Net.
Link to article Scientometrics