Gender balance in the scientific production of the Atapuerca archaeological and palaeontological research project
In recent years, many studies have addressed gender balance in science and, more specifically, the role of women in scientific production. The results from these studies reveal differences according to country, time period and, in particular, scientific discipline. Less attention has been paid, however, to gender balance in the scientific production specific to individual research projects.
In order to explore this little-known aspect of gender balance, we focus on the Atapuerca archaeo-palaeontological project (Burgos, Spain), a large-scale mission dedicated to the study of human evolution. The scientific output generated by this project embraces various disciplines including; anthropology, palaeontology, geosciences, evolutionary biology, and genetics. Although developed in Spain, this project includes researchers from numerous institutions in 21 countries on five continents. The Atapuerca project is one of the most outstanding research programs to study world prehistory in terms of economic investment, relevance of excavated sites, number of scientists engaged, organisational complexity, and volume of scientific production. From 1978 to 2016, more than 1,000 people participated in excavations at the Atapuerca sites. Subsequent research generated publications in highly rated international scientific journals, including 6 papers in Nature, 6 in Science and 15 in PNAS. In addition, the project has generated a significant social impact with a total of 2,349,052 visitors to the facilities related to the project between 2010 and 2015 (the archaeological sites, the archaeological park and the Museum of Human Evolution). Moreover, Atapuerca is a UNESCO’s World Heritage Site since 1997.
Our results suggest that gender differences are starting to disappear among younger researchers. This trend has been significantly marked in the Atapuerca project by two factors, namely; the role of the three (male) directors in scientific production and the increasing percentage of PhD theses completed by female researchers.