Suggest women as potential reviewers

A recent editorial in Neuropsychopharmacology by Chloe J. Jordan and the Editor in Chief, William A. Carlezon Jr. overviews the participation of scientists in the journals' workings by gender. I was struck by Figure 5 because it is a call for immediate and simple action by all of you who are corresponding authors, and indeed any authors.
The upper two pie charts show that between 25% and 34% of the potential reviewer suggestions in the first half of 2018 were women. Interestingly, the suggestions for manuscripts from corresponding authors who are themselves women were only slightly more gender balanced than were the suggestions for manuscripts with male corresponding authors.

Do Better.

I have for several years now tried to remember to suggest equal numbers of male and female reviewers as a default and occasionally (gasp) can suggest more women than men. So just do it. Commit yourself to suggest at least as many female reviewers as you do male ones for each and every one of your manuscripts. Even if you have to pick a postdoc in a given lab.

I don't know what to say about the lower pie charts. It says that women corresponding authors nominate female peers to exclude at twice the rate of male corresponding authors. It could be a positive in the sense that women are more likely to think of other women as peers, or potential reviewers of their papers. They would therefore perhaps suggest more female exclusions compared with a male author that doesn't bring as many women to mind as relevant peers.

That's about the most positive spin I can think of for that so I'm going with it.

9 responses so far

  • A Salty Scientist says:

    Also, be cognizant that AEs likely go through the list of suggested reviewers from top to bottom. And if you cannot review a manuscript, include women as possible suggestions.

  • clueless noob says:

    For me, at least, the cost:benefit on review time is pretty high. Women do a disproportionate amount of service already. Should we really ask them to spend more time reviewing manuscripts?

  • JL says:

    I don't understand something. If my field has many more men than women, and we all suggest as many men as women for reviews, are we not asking the women to do more work than men? It seems unfair.

  • Labrat says:

    Why review if it is so thankless? A lot of the things we need to do to be promoted revolve around the review process. More fundamentally, reviewing means participation in the system and shaping the field.

    Worth mentioning -- none of the data in the editorial suggests that women are being disproportionately burdened. Although women comprise less of the reviewer pool overall (and this WILL change as authors and editors alike are more mindful), they are receiving proportionate numbers of invitations, are equally likely to accept or decline the invitation to review as men, and are completing on average the same number of reviews as men.

    Regardless, as someone said in another thread, asking women to review is less problematic than women not being given the chance to review, for these very reasons. Less reviewing => less opportunity.

  • Drugmonkey says:

    maybe instead of exhibiting ridiculous paternalism we should allow reviewers to say yes and no to review as they see fit, JL.

  • JL says:

    Relax DM. Sure, they have the opportunity to decline, and it is all for good.

    Maybe you should consider that many of those "invitations" carry with them some degree of obligation. Not as much for manuscript reviews, perhaps, but certainly to serve on department committee's and alike.

  • jmz4 says:

    For anyone curious, the breakdown in the submitting author population (corresponding authors) is 61 to 39% (Figure 4). That means there's there's about a 15 percentage point margin for men who appear to be under-recommending women (i.e 25% instead of 39%).

    But my guess is, given the demographic data we have on PIs, is a lot of those women will be much more junior than the men. That could explain the bias, if people are more likely to pick well established (i.e. old) PIs to review, which may be the case.

    Generally, what are the pros and cons of asking a venerable lab vs a new lab head to be the reviewer for your paper?

  • AcademicLurker says:

    Generally, what are the pros and cons of asking a venerable lab vs a new lab head to be the reviewer for your paper?

    For one thing, in a venerable lab your paper is much more likely to be actually read and reviewed by a postdoc (or maybe graduate student).

  • A Salty Scientist says:

    IME, junior reviewers tend* to be more critical over "minor" issues than seasoned reviewers. I prefer that papers only be rejected for "major" issues that we missed rather than death by a thousand (imagined) cuts.

    * Granted, this is generalization informed by my own anecdata. I have also personally learned to not sweat the small stuff over time.

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