No good; get some men to help

This seems almost too classic to be real. Two women submit a research paper for peer review and get a suggestion that they should add a man or two as co-author(s). I’m not making it up.

Evolutionary geneticist Fiona Ingleby was shocked when she read the review accompanying the rejection for her latest manuscript, which investigates gender differences in the Ph.D.-to-postdoc transition, so she took the issue to Twitter.

Earlier today, Ingleby, a postdoc at the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom, posted two excerpts of the anonymous review. “It would probably … 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)” to prevent the manuscript from “drifting too far away from empirical evidence into ideologically biased assumptions,” the reviewer wrote in one portion.

Or, better yet, add one or two male biologists and then subtract the original female biologists. And change the subject to male superiority in the Ph.D.-to-postdoc transition. That would be perfect.

“Perhaps it is not so surprising that on average male doctoral students co-author one more paper than female doctoral students, just as, on average, male doctoral students can probably run a mile a bit faster than female doctoral students,” added the reviewer (whose gender is not known).

True, true. Not so surprising at all. It’s a matter of preferences, you see. Females are the marrying and child-having sex, you see, so it’s just natural that they don’t want to write as many papers, because they’re too busy being broody. Christina Hoff Sommers has explained all this very well.

Ingleby and her co-author, evolutionary biologist Megan Head of the Australian National University in Canberra, submitted the manuscript to “a mid-range journal with a broad readership,” Ingleby explained in an e-mail to ScienceInsider…

Ingleby and Head said they received the rejection with just the single review. “Not only did the review seem unprofessional and inappropriate, but it didn’t have any constructive or specific criticism to work on,” Ingleby wrote. (The reviewer wrote that the study is “methodologically weak” and “has fundamental flaws and weaknesses that cannot be adequately addressed by mere revision of the manuscript, however extensive,” according to a copy of the review Ingleby provided to ScienceInsider, but Ingleby says these comments are “quite vague” and therefore difficult to address.)

Three weeks ago, the pair appealed the rejection. The only communication they had received from the journal was an e-mail apologizing for the delay. So today Ingleby posted the excerpts because “we felt that the journal should have taken the appeal a bit more seriously – the review is so obviously inappropriate that we couldn’t understand why it was taking so long, when we just wanted them to send it back out for a fair review.”

I don’t see what the problem is. There was only one reviewer, who said this is no good and you should get two men to write and submit it. What’s wrong with that?


  1. iknklast says

    Just another data point for her study?

    I don’t know what she found out; I’d be interested in reading the paper. In my doctoral work, it was easy to notice that the female students rarely did post-doc, mostly because they were putting themselves through college and couldn’t afford the nearly non-existent wages of a post doc. The men were mostly being put through school by their parents or wives, and were, for the most part, in no hurry to finish. We had no women in the time I was there that took so long to finish that they had to take classes over again because it had been more than 10 years since they had started the program. There were at least 2 men in that spot, and a couple more heading that way. No one was telling them they had to hurry up and finish, and they were not paying for their education themselves; their wives were paying for it.

  2. says

    add one or two male biologists and then subtract the original female biologists. And change the subject to male superiority in the Ph.D.-to-postdoc transition

    I’m sure there’s an Evolutionary Psychological explanation that can be invoked pulled out of someone’s ass to explain that.

  3. quixote says

    All I’m able to do is laugh feebly in utter incredulousness.

    First (vindictive) thought: I hope the good old internet can break down this particular jerk’s anonymity wall and splash his name up for public tomato-throwing.

    Second thought: How could he be so blitheringly stupid as to say that? Masses of men and too many women, think that. The evidence is all over the place. But at this point everybody knows you don’t say that. Not out loud.

  4. deepak shetty says

    One of the things anti-feminists should note is that the reviewer didn’t have any qualms stating this in writing – The reviewer thought it was the run of the mill sort of every day observation.

  5. jenniferphillips says

    The “mid range journal with broad readership” responds:
    All asses adequately covered, I’m sure.

    There has been a great deal of community discussion in the last few days about a referee report that was sent to an author at PLOS ONE a few weeks ago. The report contained objectionable language, and the authors were understandably upset. Since this came to my attention I directed my team to perform a prompt investigation.

    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.

    I want to sincerely apologize for the distress the report caused the authors, and to make clear that we completely oppose the sentiments it expressed. We are reviewing our processes to ensure that future authors are given a fair and unprejudiced review. As part of this, we are working on new features to make the review process more open and transparent, since evidence suggests that review is more constructive and civil when the reviewers’ identities are known to the authors (Walsh et al., 2000). This work has been ongoing for some months at PLOS ONE, and we will be announcing more details on these offerings soon.

  6. Lady Mondegreen says

    via jenniferphillips:

    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.

    Well, that’s an excellent outcome, at least.

    Too bad they had to go public to get it, but glad those particular people got the boot.

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