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Criticism Leads to Review of Paper

Nature Communications is reviewing a paper on mentorship it published last week following criticism on social media that it argued it is sexist, ScienceInsider reports.

The paper, from researchers at New York University Abu Dhabi, examined mentor–protégé pairs, as gleaned from co-authorships, to conclude that early-career researchers with female mentors had a lower average citation rate later in their careers. They suggested that female junior scientists may instead benefit from having male mentors.

Criticism of the paper emerged soon after it was posted. According to ScienceInsider, critics said that the paper used an inadequate definition of mentor and protégé, that citation rate is a poor measure of career success, and that it did not take the influence of institutional biases into enough consideration, among other concerns. "All the study accomplished, critics say, is to find evidence of systemic sexism," ScienceInsider writes. "And it proposed more sexism as a solution, they added, by encouraging female researchers to avoid working with other women."

In an Editor's Note, Nature Communications says it is investigating the issues that have been raised about the paper and an editorial response will follow.