NIH Women Lead Nation in Patents

Thursday, May 31, 2018

female scientist examining a blood sample

A fascinating statistic crossed my desk this month: Among U.S.-based institutions, the NIH has the highest representation of women scientists and engineers on filed international patent applications. I can believe it, and there’s a report documenting it from the World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO), a UN-affiliated organization.

WIPO developed an algorithm to discern the gender of inventors’ names from many different languages and cultures. Its report, published in 2016, ranks institutions filing international patent applications. The highest-ranking U.S. institution in terms of percentages of patent applications with at least one woman is HHS. My office dug deeper to find that 85% of the HHS contribution is the NIH intramural program, followed by 10% from the FDA and 5% from the CDC. The vast majority of NIH biomedical inventions are filed internationally in the manner documented by WIPO, so this seems to be an accurate ranking. We have risen in rank since the 1990s from 40% of applications having at least one woman to 59%. Most of the 22 institutions ranking above us are from South Korea and China; the closest U.S. institution below is Stanford University, with 54% of patents filled with at least one female name.

The fact that HHS is an innovator should not be surprising. A recent Reuters article proclaimed the HHS to be the most innovative government research institution, stating “HHS tops Reuters’ second annual ranking of the Top 25 Global Innovators – Government, a list that identifies and ranks the publicly funded institutions doing the most to advance science and technology.”

Category: Science