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Just Add a Male Author?

A peer reviewer's suggestion that a manuscript could be improved by the inclusion of a male author has drawn shock and outrage.

According to Retraction Watch, Fiona Ingleby, a postdoc at the University of Sussex, and her colleague Megan Head at the Australian National University submitted a manuscript that examined gender differences in the transition from graduate school to being a postdoc.

Ingleby then posted excerpts of the review they received suggesting the paper would benefit from a male author to Twitter.

The reviewer also said that male doctoral students likely produce more papers than their female counterparts due to their "marginally better health and stamina."

Further, while the reviewer wrote that the study was "methodologically weak" and contains" fundamental flaws," Ingleby says the review offered no constructive criticism on how to address those issues, ScienceInsider notes.

Ingleby and Head have appealed this review to PLOS, which tells Retraction Watch that it "regrets the tone, spirit, and content of this particular review" and is looking into the matter.

As ScienceInsider adds, Ingleby's series of tweets "unleashed an avalanche of disbelief, disgust, and, in some cases, weary expectance."

At the Washington Post's Speaking of Science blog, Rachel Feltman notes that the problem isn't just one sexist manuscript review. "This incident serves as a harsh reminder to female scientists that there are 'peers' who think their work is less-than for no reason other than their sex," she says.