Monday, October 06, 2014
Like many physical science journals, Geology has a severe male/female author imbalance. In part, this may reflect the imbalance in researches publishing in the field. When I started the Geopoetry series, one of my goals was to reduce the underrepresentation of women in science in my selection of papers to poetify. Initially, this was easy; I was picking the very most interesting papers from about 3 years worth of Geology issues to feed my muse, and filtering for interestingness substantially lessened the gender bias. However, as I transition into pulling poems from the most recent issue or two, addressing this imbalance becomes harder. For example, to find an equal number of male and female authored papers when pulling four from a volume which has three female and 20 male first authors requires the women to be many times more interesting than the men. So I have two requests:
For you, the readers, I ask this. If I start reverting to the mean Geolgoy M/F ratio, please call me on it.
And for the editors of Geology, I ask this: Why is the gender bias in our society flagship journal so bad (~13% in Sept 2014)? Does it reflect the bias in submissions? Or is it an unintended consequence of the review process? The anecdote that filtering for (subjective) interestingness evens out the gender ratio suggests that female authors might be required to clear a higher bar. Is this an editorial problem or a reviewer problem? If it lies in the reviewers, can high frequency reviewers have their reviews statistically analysed so that a misogynistic correction factor can be built into their reports?
I hope this is a tractable problem which can be fixed, and I’ll try to continue to address it here at a rate of fourteen lines per week. But hopefully more can be done.