If ever there was an example of why double-blind peer review was needed

#1

From [RetractionWatch][1]:
“Ingleby, a postdoc in evolutionary genetics at the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom, co-wrote an article on gender differences in the transition from PhD-dom to postdoc land and submitted it to a journal for consideration. What she heard back was lamentably ironic — and grossly sexist.”

I won’t spoil the surprise, though I’m pretty sure you can guess what’s coming. Not much I can say other than AAAAAAGGGGGHHHHHHHHH!!!
[1]: http://retractionwatch.com/2015/04/29/its-a-mans-world-for-one-peer-reviewer-at-least/

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#2

hahahaha I just saw that on twitter.

I must say, as a reviewer and editor, to reject after a flimsy single review, I have a sneaking suspicion that the paper is possibly not what it’s cracked up to be. Yes, the reviewer’s suggestion was rubbish and appallingly patronising, but the complaint from the authors is a) out of context and b) we haven’t seen the original paper.

So I am horrified, but am waiting for more information before I form a “full and frank” opinion.

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#3

Even if the paper was utter shite, the reviewer should focus on why it’s shite, not talk about the gender of the authors. And, according to the authors, the review did not contain actionable recommendations for improvement. So I don’t really care what the quality of the paper is, the reviewer was totally out of order, and the editor was wrong to not bounce the review back and say “please give actionable recommendations and do not bring gender into it”.

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#4

Oh absolutely - no argument from me there.
I’m just adding the perspective from the other side of the editorial process, which I also occupy. The terrible review seems (from the partial comments i have seen) to suggest that the discussion in the paper is going too far (or at least that’s my interpretation), and on reading the paper the editor might have agreed with that interpretation. Clearly they have not conveyed that to the authors clearly, who are absolutely right to request a reconsideration, and the editor could have handled this a lot better.
But I make the point to emphasise, as you do, that this is definitely about the review process, not about the paper itself, which no one has seen.

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#5

“Marginally better health and stamina”? wtaf!

I admit to not knowing much about the review process, and I’m sure that academia is perhaps more robust than comments I’d make editing - but seriously?

Hope they get a better reviewer now.

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#6

Oh, absolutely. Paper could be utter bunk for all we know! I’d be very curious to read it now, just to see if it is bunk or not!

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#7

The thing is, again - as an editor, I would just never have sent on that review. I genuinely don’t think I could have sent that to an author. You see some pretty flaky reviews, sure, but one that was derogatory in that way, I would have gone to the senior editor before sending it on, and asked WTAF am I meant to do with this. That’s a standard line in journals - there’s the handling editor AND the senior editor, and this review has got through both…

Yeah, it is absolutely mystifying.

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#8

It seems PLoS have decided to give the paper to a different reviewer:

On 30 April, PLoS notified Ingleby that the appeal was successful and that the manuscript will be re-evaluated by a different reviewer.

http://www.nature.com/news/sexist-review-causes-twitter-storm-1.17457?WT.mc_id=TWT_NatureNews

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#9

(Also, I just moved this thread to Equality and Diversity, as the Women in STEM section is for specific examples of cool women in STEM. :smiley:

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#10

PLoS One is taking steps:

PLOS ONE has strict policies for how we expect peer review to be performed and we strive to ensure that the process is fair and civil. We have taken a number of steps to remedy the situation. We have formally removed the review from the record, and have sent the manuscript out to a new editor for re-review. We have also asked the Academic Editor who handled the manuscript to step down from the Editorial Board and we have removed the referee from our reviewer database.

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#11

Gender bias distorts peer review across fields
A new study has found that editors are - inadvertently or not - taking gender into account when assigning peer reviewers.

They found that, on average, male editors were much more likely to pick male reviewers, whereas female editors were more likely to pick other women. This bias was stronger for men, the researchers report in a study3 published on 21 March in eLife.

Previous papers have looked at gender bias in peer review, but most of them have focused on one field. But this latest study analysed 142 journals in the Frontiers family of publications across science, health, engineering and social sciences.

This quote sums up the problem brilliantly,

“The quality of scientific work is not determined by gender,” says Markus Helmer, a computational neuroscientist, and the lead study author, who performed most of the work while at the Max Planck Institute in Göttingen, Germany. “So if gender is impacting which reviewers are chosen, that means journals are not getting the highest-quality reviewers.”

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