Research ArticleSOCIAL SCIENCES

Peer review and gender bias: A study on 145 scholarly journals

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Science Advances  06 Jan 2021:
Vol. 7, no. 2, eabd0299
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abd0299
  • Fig. 1

    Distribution of final editorial decisions of manuscripts that were sent out for review by the gender of the first and last author.

  • Fig. 2 Learned structure of the Bayesian network.

    For the sake of readability, we did not report the scientific field effect, which was linked to all nodes. Orange arrows indicate a negative relationship, and blue arrows indicate a positive relationship (dotted black, if the sign depends on the scientific field taken into consideration). Path coefficients are only shown for paths that were consistent across scientific fields. All path coefficients can be found in table S9.

  • Fig. 3 Bayesian network predictions of the rejection probability by author gender, referee recommendation score panels, and field of research.

  • Table 1 Number of journals and frequency distribution of selected sample characteristics by field of research.

    Biomedicine and healthLife sciencesPhysical sciencesSocial sciences and
    humanities
    Number of journals55245016
    Mean impact factor (SD)2.99 (1.49)3.14 (1.60)3.04 (1.32)2.18 (1.07)
    Number of submissions113,42131,331184,31519,051
    Percentage first-round
    rejections
    45.835.241.250.0
    Percentage final rejections58.848.148.562.3
    Percentage women authors31.527.719.138.0
    Percentage women referees24.621.016.338.1
  • Table 2 Logistic mixed-effects models on the final editorial decision (accept) by field of research using the gender ratio as predictor.

    Mean estimate, 95% CI, and Bayes factor (β > 0) are reported for each variable.

    VariableBiomedicine and health
    science
    Life sciencePhysical scienceSocial science
    (Intercept)−6.224−4.698−7.069−5.124
    [−6.629, −5.827][−6.048, −3.366][−7.970, −6.174][−6.071, −4.200]
    1:20,0001:20,0001:20,0001:20,000
    Women proportion (authors)0.1290.0500.205−0.065
    [0.022, 0.235][−0.143, 0.244][0.115, 0.296][−0.291, 0.156]
    103:12:120,000:11:2
    Women proportion (referees)−0.154−0.042−0.041−0.234
    [−0.240, −0.070][−0.206, 0.122][−0.119, 0.036][−0.448, −0.020]
    1:2,8561:21:61:59
    Review score6.0206.1766.0955.823
    [5.907, 6.134][5.936, 6.416][5.996, 6.194][5.470, 6.181]
    20,000:120,000:120,000:120,000:1
    Agreement1.2140.6670.7080.202
    [1.086, 1.339][0.449, 0.879][0.613, 0.801][−0.122, 0.525]
    20,000:120,000:120,000:18:1
    IF−0.059−0.1400.058−0.143
    [−0.112, −0.004][−0.215, −0.065][0.020, 0.095][−0.403, 0.114]
    1:571:20,000832:11:6
    Number of authors0.002−0.0390.0450.014
    [−0.006, 0.011][−0.053, −0.025][0.035, 0.054][−0.026, 0.055]
    2:11:20,00020,000:13:1
    Number of referees−0.184−0.160−0.103−0.300
    [−0.226, −0.142][−0.234, −0.0986][−0.133, −0.072][−0.420, −0.180]
    1:20,0001:19,9991:20,0001:20,000
    PR type: single-blind0.5320.1171.1851.091
    [0.97, 0.962][−1.228, 1.472][0.281, 2.110][−0.391, 2.592]
    105:11:1162:114:1
    Number of revision rounds4.0943.6703.993.756
    [4.037, 4.152][3.578, 3.766][3.95, 4.04][3.624, 3.889]
    20,000:120,000:120,000:120,000:1
    Sensitivity0.930.930.930.92
    Specificity0.960.950.970.97
  • Table 3 Logistic mixed-effects models on the final editorial decision (accept) by field of research using the first and last author’s gender as predictors.

    Mean estimate, 95% CI, and Bayes factor (β > 0) are reported for each variable.

    VariableBiomedicine and health
    science
    Life sciencePhysical scienceSocial science
    (Intercept)−6.116−4.502−7.020−5.291
    [−6.530, −5.700][−5.844, −3.156][−7.960, −6.088][−6.282, −4.322]
    1:20,0001:20,0001:20,0001:20,000
    First author woman0.001−0.0990.099−0.065
    [−0.067, 0.069][−0.218, 0.022][0.035, 0.163][−0.259, 0.127]
    1:11:18768:11:3
    Last author woman−0.056−0.050−0.0340.039
    [−0.125, 0.014][−0.181, 0.081][−0.109, 0.024][−0.148, 0.223]
    1:161:31:82:1
    Women proportion (referees)−0.135−0.063−0.033−0.190
    [−0.233, −0.037][−0.254, 0.130][−0.132, 0.066][−0.429, 0.044]
    1:3021:31:31:16
    Review score6.0176.2466.0565.785
    [5.889, 6.145][5.966, 6.532][5.928, 6.186][5.393, 6.181]
    20,000:120,000:120,000:120,000:1
    Agreement1.2070.6350.6460.353
    [1.063, 1.353][0.387, 0.886][0.523, 0.769][−0.003, 0.710]
    20,000:120,000:120,000:138:1
    IF−0.059−0.1390.044−0.173
    [−0.120, 0.002][−0.223, −0.053][−0.003, 0.091][−0.454, 0.113]
    1:331:1,81728:11:8
    Number of authors0.005−0.0450.0510.024
    [−0.005, 0.015][−0.061, −0.029][0.039, 0.063][−0.020, 0.068]
    6:11:20,00020,000:16:1
    Number of referees−0.188−0.199−0.137−0.286
    [−0.236, −0.141][−0.285, −0.114][−0.177, −0.098][−0.416, −0.155]
    1:20,0001:20,0001:20,0001:20,000
    PR type: single-blind0.5370.0991.3361.094
    [0.113, 0.974][−1.245, 1.435][0.405, 2.284][−0.406, 2.601]
    143:11:1391:114:1
    Number of revision rounds4.1003.7074.0183.834
    [4.036, 4.165][3.597, 3.819][3.961, 4.076][3.687, 3.988]
    20,000:120,000:120,000:120,000:1
    Sensitivity0.930.930.930.92
    Specificity0.970.960.970.96
  • Table 4 Poisson regression model predicting the number of rounds of reviews before manuscript’s acceptance.

    Mean estimate, 95% CI, and Bayes factor (β > 0) are reported for each variable.

    VariableBiomedicine and health
    science
    Life sciencePhysical scienceSocial science
    (Intercept)0.571−1.171−1.537−1.427
    [0.488, 0.654][−1.444, −0.894][−1.821, −1.255][−1.710, −1.149]
    20,000:11:20,0001:20,0001:20,000
    Women proportion (authors)−0.002−0.0010.016−0.006
    [−0.031, 0.027][−0.072, 0.071][−0.019, 0.052][−0.080, 0.069]
    1:11:14:11:1
    Women proportion (referees)0.0370.0830.0490.007
    [0.013, 0.060][0.022, 0.143][0.019, 0.079][−0.069, 0.082]
    951:1307:1951:11:1
    Review score−0.3891.7121.8122.251
    [−0.423, −0.355][1.642, 1.783][1.783, 1.842][2.153, 2.349]
    1:20,00020,000:120,000:120,000:1
    IF−0.0070.0210.0360.026
    [−0.021, 0.007][−0.002, 0.043][0.022, 0.049][−0.06, 0.111]
    1:628:120,000:13:1
    Number of authors0.0020.0100.014−0.005
    [0, 0.005][0.004, 0.015][0.01, 0.017][−0.018, 0.008]
    43:16,666:120,000:11:3
    Number of referees0.0530.0650.1060.089
    [0.042, 0.063][0.039, 0.091][0.095, 0.117][0.051, 0.127]
    20,000:120,000:120,000:120,000:1
    Agreement−0.0220.0310.0560.033
    [−0.055, 0.012][−0.048, 0.111][0.019, 0.092][−0.075, 0.145]
    1:94:1799:13:1
    PR type: single-blind−0.072−0.0510.095−0.133
    [−0.155, 0.011][−0.303, 0.196][−0.192, 0.383][−0.554, 0.278]
    1:221:23:11:3

Supplementary Materials

  • Supplementary Materials

    Peer review and gender bias: A study on 145 scholarly journals

    Flaminio Squazzoni, Giangiacomo Bravo, Mike Farjam, Ana Marusic, Bahar Mehmani, Michael Willis, Aliaksandr Birukou, Pierpaolo Dondio, Francisco Grimaldo

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    • Data sharing protocol
    • Figs. S1 to S3
    • Tables S1 to S11

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