Gender differences in peer review outcomes and manuscript impact at six journals of ecology and evolution

Fox, C. W. and C. E. T. Paine (2019). "Gender differences in peer review outcomes and manuscript impact at six journals of ecology and evolution." Ecology and Evolution.

The productivity and performance of men is generally rated more highly than that of women in controlled experiments, suggesting conscious or unconscious gender biases in assessment. The degree to which editors and reviewers of scholarly journals exhibit gender biases that influence outcomes of the peer-review process remains uncertain due to substantial variation among studies. We test whether gender predicts the outcomes of editorial and peer review for >23,000 research manuscripts submitted to six journals in ecology and evolution from 2010 to 2015. Papers with female and male first authors were equally likely to be sent for peer review. However, papers with female first authors obtained, on average, slightly worse peer-review scores and were more likely to be rejected after peer review, though the difference varied among journals. These gender differences appear to be partly due to differences in authorial roles. Papers for the which the first author deferred corresponding authorship to a coauthor (which women do more often than men) obtained significantly worse peer-review scores and were less likely to get positive editorial decisions. Gender differences in corresponding authorship explained some of the gender differences in peer-review scores and positive editorial decisions. In contrast to these observations on submitted manuscripts, gender differences in peer-review outcomes were observed in a survey of >12,000 published manuscripts; women reported similar rates of rejection (from a prior journal) before eventual publication. After publication, papers with female authors were cited less often than those with male authors, though the differences are very small (~2%). Our data do not allow us to test hypotheses about mechanisms underlying the gender discrepancies we observed, but strongly support the conclusion that papers authored by women have lower acceptance rates and are less well cited than are papers authored by men in ecology.

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