Women are underrepresented in academia: Roughly equal numbers of both genders embark on a scientific career, but fewer women receive professorships, or publish as first authors. A skewed gender ratio apparently also applies to peer review: A new study, published in eLife, finds that gender bias influences the choice of reviewers for academic papers. The researchers, led by Markus Helmer (formerly at the Max Planck Institute in Göttingen), examined studies submitted to 142 Frontiers Journals between 2007 and 2015. In total, the data encompassed papers handled by 9 000 editors and reviewed by 43 000 scientists. The investigation found that male editors preferentially selected male reviewers, while female editors displayed a weaker gender bias (which was also only limited to a few individuals).
While interesting, the dataset also has limitations: The researchers only considered active reviewers, but not those that were asked to review but had to decline. Therefore, it is possible that the bias appears stronger than it is in the initial stage of inviting reviewers.
A full analysis of the eLife study can be found on the Nature News website, here.