Jory Lerback and gender inequities in peer review

Today’s interview, with Jory Lerback from the University of Utah, has both nothing and everything to do with climate science. I think for the first time in the history of Forecast, no one mentioned the word climate. Instead, we talked about Jory’s recent Nature Comment entitled “Journals invite too few women to referee“.

Jory’s work arose out of her time between undergraduate and graduate studies, when she worked at AGU headquarters analyzing their massive database of authors and referees.

There is some good news on the gender equity front. For the youngest cohorts of geosciences, women are at ~ 40% of corresponding authors.

But otherwise,  it’s still discouraging. Overall, women are about 28% of AGU authors, yet make up only 20% of the pool of referees. So, even relative to their low representation as authors, women are even more underrepresented as referees.

The problem arises at least in part because corresponding authors recommend too few women and editors select too few women. Women also decline reviews at slightly higher rates.

At Nature, our informal analysis shows roughly similar results, although in some fields, submitting authors recommend women referees in the single digit range.

Addressing gender inequity in science is a perpetual topic, but for the specific case of referees, there is at least a practical way forward. Authors — recommend female referees! Editors — invite female referees … and when invited referees decline, ask for recommendations for appropriate female alternatives.

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