Summarizing 3.33 years of BWN: we’ve moved the needle!

BiasWatchNeuro went live in September 2015. Now, at the end of 2018, we analyzed the trends over 3 years and 4 months, and the results are encouraging.

First, the overall female:male ratio across conferences reported on the site has been increasing significantly (p<0.05 for linear regression calculated over the last two years*, p<0.001 for linear regression calculated over the whole period). It would take another 492 posts, or approximately 3.5 more years, to reach parity if the increase continues at the current rate, but this is not too long to wait!

The data are shown below. Each dot is a post, in solid red is a 5-post moving average, in solid black is the linear regression line calculated based on posts from 2017-2018*.


The base rate of women in each of the relevant fields in this period has, unfortunately, not yet changed on average (see below; linear regression was not significant in this case). However, we are likely underestimating the base rates of different fields, as we take a conservative approach to this estimate (e.g., counting only NIH grant recipients, see here). Also, the effects of seeing more women speakers in conferences on recruiting and maintaining more women neuroscientists as faculty will no doubt take some time.


Still, the fact that the base rates we compare to have not changed significantly over time underscores the significance of the changes we have seen in how many conferences exceed the base rate in their field. In 2015-2016, the majority of conferences were below the base rate. In 2018 we are happy to report that a majority of conferences are above the base rate. Given that base rates are likely underestimated, and that over-representation is important in order to compensate for biases and ultimately increase the base rate in every subfield to 50% (the base rate of females in the population), this is extremely encouraging!

Below are summaries of number of posts in each of our BWN Rating categories over the years:


We can make a difference. And we need to continue doing more. Heartfelt thanks to our over 100 named supporters, and to the Simons Foundation for funding BWN.

Happy 2019 everyone!

ps. Stay tuned for the BWN pledge, keep a watchful eye on representation of women in journals (alas, it is not looking good so far), and please contact us if you have ideas on how to extend our reach to fighting racial biases in neuroscience.

* We used only the last two years of posts for calculating trends, as these are years in which we posted conferences regularly (and hopefully provided wide coverage of conferences and meetings in the field) thanks to generous funding from the Simons Foundation.