Peer reviewer tells female biologists their study would be better if they worked with men

While I have a general preference for mixed teams (and most of the evidence I have seen supports mixed teams), this is taking it too far. But given the subject of the paper (sexism), one can see the possibility of bias.

However, the peer review should focus on the substance and the assumptions of the study, rather than the gender of the authors:

“I read it through a couple of times trying to figure out whether it was a joke,” Head tells As It Happens guest host Tom Harrington. “[When I showed it to my colleagues], both male and female, they were unanimously outraged. It confirmed what I initially thought… The tone was completely condescending and the sexist comments were peppered throughout the review. I don’t know what they were trying to achieve, really.”

“It would probably also be beneficial to find one or two male biologists to work with (or at least obtain internal peer review from, but better yet as active co-authors), in order to serve as a possible check against interpretations that may sometimes be drifting too far away from empirical evidence into ideologically biased assumptions.”

– Excerpt from anonymous peer review

Ironically, their paper was about sexism. Head and Ingleby conducted a survey of 244 biology PhD students and found that women had worse job prospects than their male colleagues, possibly due to gender bias.

“We initially sent an appeal to the journal when we first received the review back,” she says. “We thought it was taking them too long to respond — all we received from them was a form letter apologizing for the delay. But really, this is an open-and-shut case. We couldn’t see why it was taking so long, and we didn’t want to see this swept under the carpet.”

Head and Ingleby decided to share excerpts of their review on Ingleby’s Twitter account. It went viral.

“Everyone paid attention it seemed,” she says with a laugh. “My co-author posted the tweets just before I went to bed at 11 p.m. Australian time. I woke up the next morning and Science magazine had covered the Twitter storm… it’s been really crazy, the response.”

In less than 24 hours, PLOS ONE issued a statement of apology and announced their appeal was in process.

“PLOS regrets the tone, spirit and content of this particular review. We take peer review seriously and are diligently and expeditiously looking into this matter. The appeal is in process. PLOS allows Academic Editors autonomy in how they handle manuscripts, but we always follow up if concerns are raised at any stage of the process. Our appeals policy also means that any complaints of the review process can be fully addressed and the author given opportunity to have their paper re-reviewed.”

– PLOS One statement

Peer reviewer tells female biologists their study would be better if they worked with men – Home | As It Happens | CBC Radio.

The Facts on Women in Science Show Why We Don’t Need the Diversity Bureaucracy

While the study results are convincing, the policy conclusions less so. Other studies have shown gender and racial bias (Sex differences in academia: University challenge | The Economist) in academia:

The result of this study, authored by Cornell psychologists Wendy Williams and Stephen Ceci, and published April 13 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is hardly surprising. Since the 1980s, females have been interviewed and hired at a higher rate than their representation in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) applicant pool would predict, as documented by the National Research Council and other investigators. Pressure from campus administrators to hire a female candidate over a more qualified male peer is relentless and overwhelming. If a STEM faculty resists that pressure and hires the most qualified candidate regardless of his gender, the administrators may force the obstreperous department to hire an additional woman anyway.

Yet the myth of a sexist science hiring process has persisted, even though it is contradicted every day by the observable characteristics of faculty searches. And that myth has given rise to a stupendously expensive campus bureaucracy tasked with increasing diversity and combating alleged faculty bias. Last month, the University of California at Los Angeles hired its first vice chancellor for equity, diversity, and inclusion at the jaw-dropping salary of $354,900 — enough to cover the tuition of nearly 30 underprivileged students a year. That vice chancellor will be expected to ride herd on the faculty and make sure that it hires according to gender (and race). The Berkeley, San Francisco, and San Diego campuses of the University of California have long had their own vice chancellors for equity, diversity, and inclusion at salaries ranging from a “mere” quarter million to nearly three hundred thousand dollars a year. Each such vice chancellor presides over a princely realm of bureaucrats, all sucking up vast amounts of taxpayer and student tuition dollars.

Private universities are just as committed to the myth of faculty bias. Harvard created the position of senior vice provost for diversity and faculty development in 2005. That senior vice provost reviews faculty appointments to ensure that they contribute to “diversity in faculty ranks across the University” — in other words, that new hires be selected on the basis of gender and race, not their academic accomplishments.

The university should be the one place where reason and evidence rule. For years it has been apparent that hiring bias runs in favor of women, not against them. It’s time to shut down the costly diversity bureaucracy and allow faculty to hire on merit alone.

The Facts on Women in Science Show Why We Don’t Need the Diversity Bureaucracy | TIME.

The Real Roots of Sexism in the Middle East (It’s Not Islam, Race, or ‘Hate’) – The Atlantic

A counterpoint to much of the commentary on gender in the Middle East.

The Real Roots of Sexism in the Middle East (It’s Not Islam, Race, or ‘Hate’) – Max Fisher – International – The Atlantic.