Scientometrics; Athletic performance; Innate variation; Genetic variation; Nature vs. nurture


Historical events have produced an ideologically charged atmosphere in the USA surrounding the potential influences of innate variation on athletic performance. We tested the hypothesis that scientific studies of the role of innate variation in athletic performance were less likely to have authors with USA addresses than addresses elsewhere because of this cultural milieu. Using scientometric data collected from 290 scientific papers published in peer-reviewed journals from 2000–2012, we compared the proportions of authors with USA addresses with those that listed addresses elsewhere that studied the relationships between athletic performance and (a) prenatal exposure to androgens, as indicated by the ratio between digits 2 and 4, and (b) the genotypes for angiotensin converting enzyme, α-actinin-3, and myostatin; traits often associated with athletic performance. Authors with USA addresses were disproportionately underrepresented on papers about the role of innate variation in athletic performance. We searched NIH and NSF databases for grant proposals solicited or funded from 2000–2012 to determine if the proportion of authors that listed USA addresses was associated with funding patterns. NIH did not solicit grant proposals designed to examine these factors in the context of athletic performance and neither NIH nor NSF funded grants designed to study these topics. We think the combined effects of a lack of government funding and the avoidance of studying controversial or non-fundable topics by USA based scientists are responsible for the observation that authors with USA addresses were underrepresented on scientific papers examining the relationships between athletic performance and innate variation.