Female Voices Lacking in the Peer Review Process

According to a study published in Nature, women represent just 20 percent of scientific journals’ peer reviewers. In their analysis of more than 22,000 papers, the authors reported that women declined offers to review papers more often than men and received fewer invitations from editors to review submissions.

The study authors, Jory Lerback, a graduate student at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, and Brooks Hanson, director of publications at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in Washington, DC, analyzed authorship, reviews, and acceptances of 22,067 manuscripts from 7,196 distinct first authors submitted to 20 journals published by AGU between 2012 and 2015.

Twenty-six percent of first authors were women and, overall, women submitted 0.79 fewer papers per person in the four-year span than male first authors. Despite this, papers with female first authors were accepted more often than papers with male first authors (61% vs. 57%). Notably, acceptance rates were similar regardless of the sex of the editor or reviewers.

Although 28 percent of AGU membership is female, editors and authors invited female reviewers to review papers only 15 to 22 percent of the time. Women declined these invitations at a slightly higher rate than men (17% vs. 22%).

“These findings underline the need for efforts to increase female scientists’ engagement in manuscript reviewing to help in the advancement and retention of women in science,” the authors wrote.

Source: Lerback J, Hanson B. Journals invite too few women to referee. Nature. 2017;541:455-7.