My research looks at how demographic characteristics influence knowledge production, consumption, and use. I explore these ideas in a few main substantive areas: inequalities in scientific careers, inequalities in factual knowledge, and — most recently — knowledge about climate change among people with disabilities. A natural complement to these interests is a focus on methodological and process questions around open and reproducible social science. Below you can find my papers and reports grouped by topic.
Inequalities in the Production of Knowledge: Science of Science
One branch of my research program seeks to understand how demographics influence the production of new knowledge. I operationalize this by investigating inequalities in the academic workplace, using publishing as a case study.
With the support of a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship, I worked with an interdisciplinary team to study gender inequalities in the academic workplace, using academic publishing as a case study. My network analyses of citation patterns in 1.5 million JSTOR research articles find that women academics are underrepresented in the prestige positions of first and sole author and significantly less likely to cite their own previous work. My findings have implications for academic career paths for women, through ramifications for cumulative disadvantage. Both articles on gender and science are in the top 5% of all research articles discussed by non-scientists (according to metrics from Altmetric.com) and both have been extensively covered by the news media, underscoring my commitment to public sociology.
New research explores the social processes underpinning the generation and diffusion of knowledge and innovation in global collaborative science networks. With collaborator Megan Frederickson (University of Toronto), I have looked at gender disparities in academic scientist's productivity during the COVID-19 pandemic. We find that many academic women have experienced reduced productivity relative to men during the pandemic. The paper was in the top 25% of all research outputs discussed through social media and news outlets according to Altmetric. With collaborators Kjersten Whittington (Reed College) and Isabella Cingolani (Elsevier), I investigated differences in men's and women's international research collaboration networks across time and fields. Whittington, Frederickson, and I have a multi-year planned project to investigate differences in men's and women's international research collaboration networks.
A second project in this area studies how identities influence social science knowledge. I collaborated with sociologists Jeffrey Lockhart (University of Chicago) and Christin Munsch (University of Connecticut) to design a survey to gather detailed demographic data on over 20,000 social science authors. Our first manuscript looking at the biases of name-based demographic inference is forthcoming at Nature Human Behavior.
Lockhart, Jeffrey W., Molly M. King, and Christin Munsch. Forthcoming. “Name-Based Demographic Inference and the Unequal Distribution of Misrecognition.” Nature Human Behavior.
King, Molly M. and Megan E. Frederickson. 2021. “The Pandemic Penalty: The gendered effects of COVID-19 on scientific productivity.” Socius 7: 1-24. [Data and files] [News & Twitter mentions]
King, Molly M., Carl T. Bergstrom, Shelley J. Correll, Jennifer Jacquet, Jevin D. West. 2017. “Men set their own cites high: Gender and self-citation across fields and over time.” Socius 3: 1-22. [Data and files] [Altmetric] [News & Twitter mentions]
West, Jevin D., Jennifer Jacquet, Molly M. King, Shelley J. Correll, Carl T. Bergstrom. 2013. “The role of gender in scholarly authorship.” PLOS ONE 8(7). e66212. [Data] [Altmetric] [News & Twitter mentions]
Inequalities in the Consumption of Knowledge: Climate Change & Disability
Never before has such a wealth of information been so immediately accessible to so many and yet the filtering demands so high. Information truly is power; who possesses it and wields it most effectively has profound consequences for inequality and human welfare. The second arm of my research program turns the tables and looks at how demographic identities influence information acquisition and use.
With a pivot from studying health inequalities (on which I have published reports in the past), I am studying how information influences adaptation and resilience in novel contexts. Deepening my existing expertise in this area, I have collected 40 qualitative interviews studying how disability affects people's ability to cope with climate change via information seeking. I have published one peer-reviewed paper based on this project and a teaching and learning guide.
My co-authored article in Sociology Compass introduces a critical realist model of disability climate justice to synthesize the relationships between the environmental features that disable, risk perception and information seeking, and adaptive capacity and resilience to climate change. In understanding the vulnerability and adaptive capacity of people with disabilities to climate change, this review synthesizes research on one of the U.S.’s largest minority communities with the goals of better understanding how vulnerable populations cope with climate change and integrating them into climate action and policy. Our teaching and learning guide in the same journal suggests ideas for implementing disability and climate change into the college curriculum.
Student Research Assistants have been involved in this project from the start and I have treated them as co-authors, demonstrating my commitment to a lab model of mentoring the next generation of scholars.
King, Molly M. and Maria A. Gregg. 2022. “Disability and Climate Change: a critical realist model of climate justice.” Sociology Compass 16(1): e12954.
King, Molly M., Maria A. Gregg, Ana V. Martinez, and Emily Y. Pachoud. 2022. “Teaching and Learning Guide for Disability and Climate Justice.” Sociology Compass 16(6): e12986
Understanding the Generation of Knowledge:
Methodological and Learning Research
My scholarship of teaching and learning and methodological work constitute a third branch of my research program, which seeks to understand how knowledge is generated. Advancing research on social science methodology is a natural extension of my research on knowledge inequality and previous work on reproducibility and transparency.
As a scholar employing large data sets in my research, I have conducted research on the challenges facing reproducible and open social science. Together with Jeremy Freese (Stanford University), I studied how institutions and research infrastructure constrain and enable efforts toward greater transparency in social science. We make numerous research-based recommendations for policy and institutional change at various levels to promote a healthy social science ecosystem.
In "REDI for Binned Data," I develop a new imputation method to empirically estimate continuous values for binned income data. I also published an open-access Stata package that researchers can download to implement the method in their own work.
My scholarship of teaching and learning also explores the production of knowledge in SCU’s teacher-scholar model. An undergraduate collaborator Megan Imai and I studied how sociology faculty work with RAs in primarily undergraduate institutions, resulting in a paper describing the benefits and challenges of RA-faculty relationships.
King, Molly M. 2022. “REDI for Binned Data: A Random Empirical Distribution Imputation method for estimating continuous incomes.” Sociological Methodology. [Data and files]
King, Molly M. and Megan Imai. 2022. “The Undergraduate RA: Benefits and Challenges for Sociology Faculty and Research Assistants.” Teaching Sociology. [OSF open-access version]
Freese, Jeremy, and Molly M. King. 2018. “Institutionalizing Transparency.” Socius 4. [News & Twitter mentions]