After scalding critiques of study on gender and mentorship, journal says it is reviewing the work

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Robert Neubecker

By Lindzi WesselNov. 20, 2020 , 4:25 PM

A massive study of mentoring, gender, and career outcomes released by Nature Communications has ignited a firestorm of criticism for its conclusions, which have been labeled as sexist by many scientists on social media. The study is a “black eye” for the popular open-access title, one bioengineer tweeted, adding that she will no longer review papers for the journal.

In response to the uproar, the journal’s editorial team announced Thursday it is reviewing the study, which concludes that mentorship by women can damage the careers of female students and early-career scientists; it recommends encouraging male mentors for women instead.

The study, published on 17 November by a trio of researchers at New York University, Abu Dhabi, used a data set of more than 200 million scientific papers published over the course of more than 100 years to identify several million mentor-mentee pairs. It then followed the career achievements of the mentees, based on citations to papers they authored during their first 7 years as “senior scientists”—determined here only by the time since a researcher’s first publication.

They found that early-career scientists who co-wrote papers with what the authors call “big-shot” researchers—defined by their yearly …

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