Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Letters

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Letters

Article excerpt

Inexcusable sexism calls for action

The sexist nature of the peer review comments (suggesting that a paper written by two female researchers ought to include at least one male author to make sure that the data are interpreted correctly and saying that only men have the personality necessary to make it to the top jobs in science) that were offered in response to Fiona Ingleby and Megan Head's Plos One journal submission on gender inequality in the life sciences has been met with a roar of public outrage ("'Sexist' peer review causes storm online", www.timeshighereducation.co.uk, 30 April).

As a female academic, I personally found some of the sexist comments (such as only men have the personality necessary to make it to the top jobs in science) so outlandish that it was difficult to take them seriously. Surely no credible scientist could honestly believe that it is physical stamina that explains men's publication advantage? That the journal editor(s) accepted such a review without challenge was equally galling.

If these comments were indeed meant to be taken literally, let me ask, rather provocatively: is this a case where the reviewing scientist is so patently sexist that s/he should be unmasked in this particular instance - as a public service to the scientific community? Anonymity plays a very specific function in the research process; when it undermines trust in the system of how work is judged, as demonstrated in this case, should it be withdrawn?

I do not ask this question lightly, but rather because we (myself included) often stand by and tolerate quiet sexism within the walls of academia. If this person is evidently biased, then why are we, as an academic community, protecting such clearly sexist behaviour? If key gatekeepers (such as peer reviewers at major journals) are permitted to express their damaging personal biases without any personal cost to their reputations, then it undermines the trust of female scientists in the fairness of the overall "meritocratic" system. This sense of fairness, by the way, has already been systematically undermined in more ways than a letter allows me to express.

Christine Cheng

Lecturer in war studies

King's College London

Twitter @cheng_christine

What an appalling story. My sympathy goes out to the two women. This episode shows the journal in a very poor light. Why only one reviewer? Why did the editor not consider the reviewer's contribution to be unacceptable and turn to another reviewer? I suggest that the editor should now take two swift actions: (1) remove the reviewer from the journal's list of reviewers, and (2) resign immediately - he is not up to the job.

Telford Moore

Via timeshighereducation.co.uk

Accounting by Aslan

Your financial health check of universities ("Keep squirrelling away the nuts", Features, 30 April) showed that the sector reported net assets "excluding pension liabilities" of an impressive £40 billion at July 2014. The financial fairies have obviously taken care of our £5 billion pension liabilities so we needn't worry. This does, however, make one wonder why we're paying millions to fund these deficits - and in hard cash, too - if we're supposed to ignore them in a health check? Perhaps, just maybe, they are real liabilities and shouldn't be ignored?

What's worse is that the £5 billion of pension liabilities reported in the sector's balance sheet excludes the deficit of the Universities Superannuation Scheme, which must be in the Narnia balance sheet, and any call for increased funding must equally be illusory. But fear not, this will all be sorted out in 2015-16, when changes to accounting rules will mean that all our pension liabilities, including those of the USS, will be firmly on our balance sheets - and hopefully you won't pretend that they don't exist in future.

Andrew Connolly

Chief financial officer

University of Exeter

Stand and deliver

Shahidha Bari should count herself lucky that she has an office so that she can pursue her job in quiet and privacy ("Give me room to breathe", Opinion, 16 April). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.