Can Twitter help us find out the gender ratio of bioinformaticians?

I'm still collecting survey results to try to understand the extent of gender bias in bioinformatics. I plan to publish an analysis of these results next week and I'll also share all of the the raw survey results via Figshare (in case anyone else wants to dive deeper).

One thing that is hard to accurately know is just what the gender ratio is across everyone who identifies themselves as a bioinformatician. A survey that is trying to ask something about gender bias no doubt introduces its own bias in the types of people who would be interested in completing such a survey.

But maybe Twitter can be of use in trying to determine a 'background' gender ratio among bioinformaticians. The evidence is hardly conclusive, but there are some data that suggests that more women use twitter than men. There's also data that there are comparable numbers of male/female users. In any case, numbers of users doesn't tell the whole story. Other research shows that, on average, men have  15% more followers than women, and a tool called Twee-Q that tries to identify the likely gender of twitter users, finds that men tend to be retweeted almost twice as often as women.

Despite gender biases in how people use twitter, it might still be useful to see what the gender ratio is of people who follow bioinformatics-type accounts. This is something that twitter can show you at However, this only seems to be enabled on accounts that have a certain number of followers. Here is what the results looks like for the @assemblathon twitter account (click to enlarge):

So twitter identifies — presumably using some sort of gender-guessing-algorithm — that 82% of  the followers are male. I'd love to see what other results look like for other bioinformatics twitter accounts. However, I think it is a better test if the accounts in question are themselves gender-neutral. I.e. affiliated to a resource or institution. If you run a bioinformatics-related twitter account that is gender-neutral, and if you can access, I'd love it you could share your results with me (via comments below or on twitter @kbradnam).