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Department ofSociology


Molly King

Molly King

Researching Inequalities in Scientific Careers

Molly M. King was awarded an NSF grant for her research on gender differences in scientific collaboration networks.

Molly M. King was awarded an NSF grant for her research on gender differences in scientific collaboration networks.

By Sarah Stoddard '23

Molly M. King, a professor in Santa Clara University’s Department of Sociology, studies how inequalities in information and knowledge affect people’s lives. King was recently awarded a $242,570 grant from the National Science Foundation to support her research project entitled “Gender Differences in Co-authorship across a Global Landscape: The Role of Network Structure in Men's and Women's Scientific Productivity.” In collaboration with Kjersten Bunker Whittington at Reed College, Megan Frederickson at the University of Toronto, and undergraduate research assistants at these universities and Santa Clara, King will research gender inequalities in scientific collaborative networks across several different academic fields and what implications these inequalities have for scientific knowledge and innovation.

“What really interests me about science as a case is two things,” King says. “First, understanding where our knowledge comes from is really important to understanding what types of knowledge we have and don’t have.” The kinds of science we study are deeply influenced by who produces knowledge, making it important to recognize inequalities such as disproportionate representations of certain groups of people in research. “The other thing is that as a study of social life, researching how knowledge is produced, researching publications, and researching academic careers can be a really straightforward way of studying inequalities in the workplace because there’s a really concrete outcome, and that is the publication,” King says. Many other careers lack such a measurable product that can be expressed in quantitative data.

This NSF award will support King’s research over the next three years. The first phase of King’s project will include turning global data about publications and authors into a large network describing collaborative ties. Many different types of measures will be used to determine authors’ positions in the network and accurately represent their ties to all the other authors they have collaborated with on publications. The next stage will require analysis of this data over the remainder of the three years. “We have four different sets of analyses planned for four different sub projects within our broader project, and those will be spread out over the remaining time,” King explains.

Students who join this project as undergraduate assistants will develop valuable skills that will aid them in their future careers. Students and faculty across the project’s partner institutions will work together in an interdisciplinary and intergenerational lab environment, collaborating from the start of the research until publication. They will have the opportunity to prepare literature reviews and manuscripts, conduct statistical analyses, as well as attend professional conferences and co-present the project’s findings. King explains that students will benefit from being a part of social science research outside of the classroom. “There is less predictability about what the results might be,” she says. “Classroom research projects are designed so students will be successful no matter what, whereas in this kind of project, it’s not clear what the results will be. That’s part of the excitement and the experience.”

Although it is unclear at this time what results King’s project will find, she hopes her research will bring a new perspective to the study of scientific collaboration networks. “There is a lot of competing literature out there about collaborations,” King says. Some studies find that collaborations are more successful between people of the same gender, whereas others find that having diverse perspectives yields better results. Her research will take a novel approach by examining how networks with different collaborative ties based on gender will affect career outcomes across many different disciplines throughout the world. Typically, researchers will focus on a single discipline within one country. “We’re going to be able to ask why we keep getting different results in the literature based on these different case studies,” she explains. On a broader scale, King hopes this project will benefit women scientists and other underrepresented scientists by providing knowledge about networks that will enhance scientific collaboration and innovation.


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