Gender differences in science: no support for the 'Homer Simpson Effect' among tropical researchers

Laurance, William F., Laurance, Susan G., and Useche, D. Carolina (2011) Gender differences in science: no support for the 'Homer Simpson Effect' among tropical researchers. Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 26 (6). pp. 262-263.

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[Extract] Many readers of TREE are interested in the factors that determine scientific success, some of which could be influenced by the gender of scientists (e.g. [1], [2] and [3]). Given general tendencies for men to have a more-positive attitude toward science [4], to publish more frequently in scientific journals [5] and to engage more forcefully in self-promotion [6] and [7], we hypothesized that men would also rate their personal scientific expertise more highly than would women, given comparable levels of individual experience. We term our hypothesis the 'Homer Simpson Effect' in honor of a well-known male cartoon character who thinks very highly of his own intellectual prowess (

We had a good opportunity to test our hypothesis as part of a global survey of recognized scientific experts engaged in long-term environmental or ecological research at 60 protected areas stratified across forests of the Asia-Pacific, African and American tropics, conducted from 2008 to 2010. We identified our experts mostly via scientific publications and recommendations from other scientists. No effort was made to include gender as a consideration in the study. In addition to a battery of questions about the study area in which they had long-term expertise, we recorded three general attributes for each scientist: (i) their gender; (ii) the number of years they had worked at the site; and (iii) their perceived level of knowledge about their study area (1, excellent; 2, good; 3, fair; scored at increments of 0.5). We recorded variable (ii) in two ways: as the number of years since the scientist first visited their study site and, whenever possible, as the total number of years that she or he had actually spent at the site. These two metrics were strongly and linearly related (R2 = 84.1%, F1,167 = 883, P < 0.0001; linear regression) and yielded almost identical results in our analyses, so we used the former as it was available for all participants in our study.

Item ID: 17441
Item Type: Article (Commentary)
ISSN: 1872-8383
Date Deposited: 05 Jul 2011 05:57
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050202 Conservation and Biodiversity @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960899 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity of Environments not elsewhere classified @ 100%
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