Journal of Professional Nursing

Gender, nursing and the PBRF

Suzanne Phibbs, PhD School of Health Sciences, Massey University
Bruce Curtis, PhD Department of Sociology, Auckland University

Reference:  Phibbs, S., & Curtis, B. (2006). Gender, nursing and the PBRF. Nursing Praxis in New Zealand, 22(2), 4-11.


Significant disparities between male and female academics exist with respect to remuneration, academic grading and PBRF scores – with women doing less well than men in each of these areas. There exists a range of gender-based distribution and outcome gaps within the university, and between universities and non-university tertiary education organisations. This situation, combined with a devaluing of academic subjects that have feminised knowledge bases, is suggestive of wider structural discrimination against women. In this article individualised explanations for the failure of women to progress are set in the context of a critical exploration of the PBRF evaluation methodology. It is argued that both academia and the PBRF research assessment exercise embody a form of academic masculinity that systematically disadvantages women in general and nursing in particular.

Gender discrimination, nursing, PBRF

The editorial in the March issue of Nursing Praxis in New Zealand briefly outlined the rationale for, and explained the organisation of, the performance- based research fund (PBRF). It also considered how the low impact factor rating given to nursing journals, an emphasis on international publications and the narrow assessment criteria used by the health panel have combined to negatively value nursing scholarship in Aotearoa/New Zealand (Smith, 2006). In the 2003 PBRF round nursing was ranked 41 of the 41 disciplines assessed (Tertiary Education Commission (TEC), 2004a), receiving a rating of 0.34 compared to an average of 2.59 per subject area (Boston, Mischewski, & Smyth, 2005). The majority of nursing academics were assessed as being ‘research inactive’, 18 received a C, three achieved a B grade and none received an A rating (Million Dollar Boost for Nursing Research, 2006; Smith, 2006). This commentary takes a macro approach setting the PBRF in the wider structural contexts in which it is embedded. The existence of a range of distribution and outcome gaps within the university on the basis of gender is suggestive of wider structural discrimination against women It is argued that gender discrimination within academia when combined with the PBRF evaluation methodology works to doubly disadvantage nursing as a discipline. …

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