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Academic career and gender inequalities in Brazil: the effect of postdoctoral mobility abroad




Academic Mobility, International Collaboration, Brazil, Career, Gender


Empirical studies have pointed out that academic mobility can increase social capital, contribute to collaborations, and directly influence overall career success (Dueñas-Fernández, Iglesias-Fernández & Llorente-Heras, 2013). However, it is also known that both academic mobility and international scientific collaborations can be negatively impacted by gender inequality. Regarding international mobility, women are underrepresented in all areas of knowledge (Momeni et al., 2022). In science, immobility or low mobility is commonly associated with slower career progression; scarce opportunities to hold coordination and management positions ("glass ceiling"); less insertion in international collaboration networks; and even abandonment of science (Delicado & Alves, 2013; van der Wal, 2021).  

The overload of family functions and the partnering effect (Ackers, 2004) are among the obstacles that women may face, which can limit researchers' displacement opportunities (Momeni et al., 2022). This scenario justifies the importance of exploring the international mobility undertaken by Brazilian researchers to analyze, among other aspects, the possible gender imbalances in academic mobility. 

The population investigated in this research will be comprised of Brazilians who have done postdoctoral studies abroad. This selection is because they are more advanced in their professional and training trajectories. The phase after the doctorate makes the researcher more independent and responsible for their research agenda, which would leave them better able to conduct high-impact studies (Nerad et al., 2022).

The work aims to design research that evaluates the effect of postdoctoral mobility abroad on employment in the academic career, considering gender inequality and institutional and systemic aspects (such as area of knowledge, academic productivity, and career position) (Aksnes et al., 2019). For this, a consolidated database will be built based on former postdoctoral fellows of the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) and the triangulation of a set of data sources since there is no consolidated database on mobility and employment ties in the Brazilian case. Next, a comparative study with a descriptive and exploratory design will be carried out between those who had postdoctoral fellowships abroad and those who had postdoctoral fellowships in Brazil without an internship abroad, and which aims, in the future, to enable the carrying out of a quasi-experiment.


The research design is descriptive and exploratory, in which a consolidated database is built with information about employment, academic production and curriculum, as well as the completion of internships abroad. Thus, possible patterns and differentiations between the academic trajectories and the characteristics of the individuals will be investigated. The consolidated database is constructed by exploring, collecting and cross-referencing information from various data sources with quality control of the selected variables.

First, we will explore the databases made available by FAPESP regarding former postdoctoral fellows to obtain information about the individuals funded between 2012 and 2017, such as name, institutional affiliation and area of knowledge. Such information is necessary for cross-referencing with other databases. In addition, other information from the researchers' records will be checked regarding the percentage of missing values such as gender, race/color, sexual orientation, and age, among others. The time frame will allow the verification of scientific production and insertion in the labor market in the post-doctorate conclusion years. Subsequently, the FAPESP database will be used for triangulation with three other data sources: (i) formal employment records from the Annual Social Information Report (RAIS) of the Ministry of Labor and Social Security; (ii) the résumés available on the Lattes platform of the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq); and (iii) the institutional affiliation in the scientific production of a bibliometric study. 


The results found so far show a discrepant distribution of completed fellowships by knowledge area and a high concentration of destination countries in the Global North. The expected outcomes are the obtaining of different patterns between the effects of mobility of postdoctoral fellows abroad and the effects of the characteristics of individuals (gender) in scientific production and in employment. Thus, enabling the generation and substantiation of hypotheses for future work.


The originality of this research is grounded on three factors. Firstly, the increase in knowledge on international mobility, emphasizing the impacts of mobility on the careers of Brazilian scientists and academics and on gender inequality, which is still little explored. Secondly, the increase in the knowledge areas studied and in the number of destination countries. Previous studies usually focused on a few areas, favoring those with low female presence (exact and biological sciences and engineering) and a small group of destination countries (mainly countries of the Global North). Thus, comprehensiveness is one of the innovations of this research, without the prior selection of areas of knowledge or countries of destination. Thirdly, the results will be based on a triangulation of four sets of information, which will complement different types of academic links, validation of research data, and greater reliability. 


Gender asymmetries in access to academic mobility highlight the disparities between men and women in career advancement possibilities, considering the relevance of international experiences in the researchers' curriculum. Along with the discussions of Responsible Research Assessment (RRA), global initiatives from groups such as the Research on Research Institute (RoRI) and the Global Research Council (GRC) are bringing the need to consider Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) in research practices and activities to the debate. Thus, it is essential to expand the understanding of gender inequalities in international mobility and academic careers, especially in the Brazilian context. This will contribute to implement EDI plans and policies and create mechanisms aimed at gender equity in the generation of academic mobility opportunities in funding agencies.


It is anticipated that there will be two main limitations in the research. The first is the difficulty in obtaining information on the characteristics of individuals. Even with the triangulation of several data sources, the information is often low quality or non-existent. The second limitation stems from the need for more robust methodologies that allow greater inferences about the results, which demands future research advances, where methodologies such as the Generalized Propensity Score (GPS) are implemented.


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How to Cite

Carneiro, A. M., Gimenez, A. M. N., Bueno, A. C., Ferreira, C. M. B., Tetzner, G. A., Suzuki, J., Lopes, L. A. P., & Maria Capanema Bezerra, L. (2023). Academic career and gender inequalities in Brazil: the effect of postdoctoral mobility abroad. In SciELO Preprints.


Human Sciences


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