In a frustrating addition to the perpetual gender equality struggle, a peer reviewer at the scientific journal PLOS ONE recently rejected a study submitted by two geneticists, Fiona Ingleby and Megan Head, suggesting they add a male author to the study. Funny enough, their research reported on gender bias in academia, and how women with PhDs in biology published work less frequently than men with the same degree.
After receiving the feedback on her study, Ingleby took to Twitter to air her frustration.
Reviewer’s conclusion: we should get a man’s name on MS to improve it (male colleagues had already read it) (2/4) pic.twitter.com/fhiyzNG0R8
— Fiona Ingleby (@FionaIngleby) April 29, 2015
#AddMaleAuthorGate went viral after Ingleby’s understandable rant hit the Internet. Twitter users became enraged at the news, and many made fun of the hypocrisy of the reviewer’s critiques, or lack thereof. All Ingleby and Head were given to work with were a few empty comments about their work, and no beneficial criticism. Given this lackluster reply, Ingleby and Head’s case was quick to become one that focused on gender discrimination.
Authorities at PLOS ONE have released a formal apology and announced that they have removed the reviewer from their staff. The review has been formally removed from the system and the manuscript has been sent to a new reviewer to evaluate it. Damian Patterson, PLOS ONE’s Editorial Director, wrote, “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. This work has been ongoing for some months at PLOS ONE, and we will be announcing more details on these offerings soon.”
This issue has caused an uproar in the scientific community (and beyond), and serves as a reminder that female scientists continue to face gender-related obstacles in their environment. Hopefully, Ingleby and Head will receive a fair and unbiased second review that will allow them to either publish their findings or edit their study using constructive criticism.