Letters – 9 May 2019

May 9, 2019

Journal ‘bias’ not so bleak for women after all

Melinda Duer and Athene Donald paint a bleak picture of women’s opportunities in academic publishing in their article “Turbocharge drive to ensure women enjoy equal chance to shine” (Opinion, 18 April), arguing that the “current publishing model, set up for men by men, is beset with unconscious bias”.

At the Regional Studies Association, a learned society devoted to the study of regions and cities globally, we have evidence that the picture may be not so bleak, with our ongoing research on gender bias in our flagship journal Regional Studies. In brief, early results indicate that in articles submitted between 2011 and 2016, where gender could be assigned, more males (67 per cent) submitted manuscripts than females (33 per cent), with these figures corresponding with the percentage of women in our membership (35 per cent), and possibly reflecting the ratio of men and women in the regional studies field.

In terms of the number of papers rejected, out of all articles submitted by men, 31 per cent were accepted; for women, 24 per cent of their total submissions were accepted. Not exactly equal, but not as bleak as inferred by the article. In terms of reviewers, there are indeed more male than female reviewers (74 per cent to 26 per cent respectively), but as Regional Studies is a double-blind, peer-reviewed journal, we found, like the study by Fox et al 2015 of the peer review process for the journal Functional Ecology, no evidence of either male or female editors or reviewers behaving differently towards papers authored by women compared with those authored by men. In fact, we found that in standard issues, articles are usually organised by the managing editor by title and surname. The decision-maker is usually unaware of the gender of the author.

In our ongoing research both we and our publishers, Taylor & Francis, are to request additional author data that will allow more informed reasoning to explain the patterns and results. We hope that, in time, the data that we collect can be used to develop strategies to encourage and sustain an inclusive environment for all. Our association has made equality and diversity a strategic policy focus that has led to a number of ongoing initiatives around how selections are made for plenary speakers and support for early career women in the field.

Sally Hardy, chief executive, Equality and Diversity Committee
Helen Lawton Smith, chair, Equality and Diversity Committee
Mark Tewdwr-Jones, chair, all at the Regional Studies Association

Idiotic arguments

I agree with Sir Peter Gluckman that calling someone an “idiot” is not going to encourage them to change their mind, it’s just going to put their back up (“Engage with climate deniers and anti-vaxxers, says science diplomat”, News, 2 May). Present a coherent argument in support of whatever you believe to be true: the need to do something to alleviate climate change, the benefits of vaccination, or anything else. Take every opportunity to put the arguments out there, because every time they are presented, there is the chance to inform, to convince, to persuade.

It may only work on the undecided, but you never know, it may work on those who thought they had already decided on a different opinion to the one you are proposing.

If you cannot be bothered to present your ideas in a compelling manner, you have no chance of convincing anyone of their merits, or of swinging them round to your point of view.

What does the Bible say? How can they hear if there is no preacher?

Via timeshighereducation.com

Will Vikings pay?

Having read the report “Cambridge to probe historical links to slave trade” (News, 30 April, www.timeshighereducation.com), I note that few organisations are turning down money from rich countries in the Middle East, whose inhabitants ran a thriving slave trade down the east coast of Africa before European traders arrived. I note also that Devon and Cornwall councils, along with many in the Republic of Ireland, are not seeking reparations from Morocco for the activities of the Corsairs who captured whole villages into slavery.

There is a limit to historical responsibility. Otherwise, why don’t we sue Norway for the massacre at Lindisfarne or the Italian government for their treatment of Boudicca and the Iceni?

via timeshighereducation.com

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