Interview with Professor Jacqueline Leta

Women scientists are not as successful in their careers as men are, and while this is certainly a problem internationally, I am focused specifically on this issue in Brazil, says Jacqueline Leta. Her first study in this area was published in 2003. She and her team found then that men and women published a similar number of scientific papers with similar potential impact and with a similar likelihood of international collaboration. However, women were less likely to receive fellowships to supplement their salaries, suggesting gender discrimination in this area.

That discrimination persists today, says Leta, who recently received a large grant to study several gender-related issues in scientific research in Brazil. One of my hypotheses is that women end up publishing more in less prestigious journals, and that has a major impact on their careers, she says. She also will be investigating whether elite researchers in Brazil are less likely to publish in open-access journals, and whether gender has an impact.

Further, Leta will be pursuing regional inequalities within Brazil, which tend to be greater in less prestigious institutions located in outlying areas.

Overall, having access to the national database of Brazil’s entire scientific community will enable Leta and her colleagues to study a wide range of issues related to the influence of gender on scientific research. In effect, with this database, we have access to a panorama of Brazilian science.

As a member of the editorial board of the of the Annals of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences since 2015, I have seen and experienced the prejudice that still exists inside the academy itself, and presents additional challenges to women, Leta says. The differences between men and women are so dramatic, it motivates me even more.

Beyond investigations and evaluations, Leta is deeply involved in raising awareness to prompt change. She regularly presents the results of her work at institutions throughout Brazil. While I certainly want to publish our data, I also want to diffuse this information widely, she says. Officially, she is Head of the Science Diffusion and Education Department at Federal University.

Leta looks forward to working with other ICSR Advisory Board members on gender diversity in science. I think my knowledge and experience in this area can help us identify some of the gaps in the research and it would be nice to collaborate on this, she says.

Portrait of prof Jacqueline Leta | Elsevier

Jacqueline Leta is a professor at Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, where she also earned her PhD in science diffusion and education. She is also Coordinator of the research project Brazilian scientific communication: mapping factors that contribute to choosing open access journals (awarded with a grant from Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Cientifico e Tecnológico;