Last week I wrote about the ridiculous and sexist peer review of an article on how gender might play into how people are treated differently when they move through their academic careers. I promised to update it when new things came up. Here’s one. It’s a blog post by Michael Eisen, who is one of the founders of the Public Library of Science, as it’s now pretty public that the manuscript was submitted to PLOS ONE:
There is so much horrible and wrong here, it’s hard to know where to begin. It is completely reprehensible that anyone would think this, let alone write it; that someone would think it was OK to submit a formal review of a paper that said “get a male co-author”; that they would chastise someone for supposed biases without seeing their own glaring ones; that the editor asleep on the job and didn’t look at the review before sending it out or, worse, read the review and thought it wasn’t problematic; that the editor was willing to reject a paper based on an obviously biased review; that the editor didn’t realize that one of their most important roles is to make sure that reviews like this never get sent out or factored into publishing decisions; that PLOS not only allowed this happen but didn’t respond to the authors’ complaint until they took to Twitter several weeks later.
(Let me just disclose for anyone reading this who doesn’t know – I am a founder of PLOS and am on its Board of Directors. I’ll probably get chastised for commenting publicly on this, but I think it’s important to not just subject PLOS to the same scrutiny and criticism I would bring to the table if it were some other publisher, but to hold PLOS to an even higher standard. This should not have happened, and PLOS needs to not only learn from this, but fix things so that it never happens again. Also, I should add that I have no inside information about this case – I know nothing about it except what has been written about publicly.)
It’s a long post, but it does appear that they are taking action – or at least talking about it enough – to make me think, perhaps, things might get better. Maybe. But keeping the discussion public and front and center is a start.