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Differences in research funding for women scientists: a systematic comparison of UK investments in global infectious disease research during 1997–2010
  1. Michael G Head1,
  2. Joseph R Fitchett2,
  3. Mary K Cooke1,
  4. Fatima B Wurie1,
  5. Rifat Atun3,4
  1. 1Research Department of Infection and Population Health, University College London, UCL Royal Free Campus, London, UK
  2. 2London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  3. 3Imperial College London, South Kensington Campus, London, UK
  4. 4Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  1. Correspondence to Michael G Head; m.head{at}


Objectives There has not previously been a systematic comparison of awards for research funding in infectious diseases by sex. We investigated funding awards to UK institutions for all infectious disease research from 1997 to 2010, across disease categories and along the research and development continuum.

Design Systematic comparison.

Methods Data were obtained from several sources for awards from the period 1997 to 2010 and each study assigned to—disease categories; type of science (preclinical, phases I–III trials, product development, implementation research); categories of funding organisation. Fold differences and statistical analysis were used to compare total investment, study numbers, mean grant and median grant between men and women.

Results 6052 studies were included in the final analysis, comprising 4357 grants (72%) awarded to men and 1695 grants (28%) awarded to women, totalling £2.274 billion. Of this, men received £1.786 billion (78.5%) and women £488 million (21.5%). The median value of award was greater for men (£179 389; IQR £59 146–£371 977) than women (£125 556; IQR £30 982–£261 834). Awards were greater for male principal investigators (PIs) across all infectious disease systems, excepting neurological infections and sexually transmitted infections. The proportion of total funding awarded to women ranged from 14.3% in 1998 to 26.8% in 2009 (mean 21.4%), and was lowest for preclinical research at 18.2% (£285.5 million of £1.573 billion) and highest for operational research at 30.9% (£151.4 million of £489.7 million).

Conclusions There are consistent differences in funding received by men and women PIs: women have fewer funded studies and receive less funding in absolute and in relative terms; the median funding awarded to women is lower across most infectious disease areas, by funder, and type of science. These differences remain broadly unchanged over the 14-year study period.

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Public Health
  • Statistics & Research Methods
  • Virology
  • Parasitology
  • Mycology

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