News National Scientist sexism row prompts online storm

Scientist sexism row prompts online storm

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A Canberra academic has won an online sexism battle against a science journal after a peer-review recommended her jointly-conducted research needed a man’s input.

Sussex University’s Fiona Ingleby and Australian National University’s Megan Head compared the number of scientific articles authored by men versus women.

The research concluded that men appear more often in jointly written articles and that led to better employability later in life.

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Before the study could be published, it underwent a compulsory peer review process.

One reviewer, whose gender was not disclosed, suggested one or two male biologists be brought on to co-author their piece to avoid it “drifting too far away from empirical evidence into ideologically based assumptions”, Reaction Watch reported.

“Perhaps it’s not so surprising that on average male doctoral students co-author one more paper and female doctoral students, just as, on average, male doctoral students can probably run a mile race a bit faster that female doctoral students,” the anonymous reviewer said.

Despite the study interviewing 244 people with a biology PhD, the reviewer described the data as “thin”.

Many possible explanations could be derived from the statistics, including that only men had a “kind of egomaniac personality disorder that drives them on to try to become chief of the world”, the reviewer said.

The paper was subsequently rejected for publication on 27 March.

After querying the peer-review process, the authors were given no response apart from apologies for a month-long delay, so they took to Twitter to vent.

The journal’s managing company PLOS One has since apologised for the “tone, spirit and content” of the review.

“We take peer review seriously and are diligently and expeditiously looking into this matter,” the company said in a statement.

The study’s rejection was being reviewed, the company said.

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