GEC Statement on the Publication “The association between early career informal mentorship in academic collaborations and junior author performance”

December 16, 2020

A recent publication in Nature Communications by Bedoor AlShebli et al. (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-020-19723-8) reported a very disturbing finding that women who were mentored during their PhD training primarily by women (not only thesis advisors but also collaborators) and co-authored papers with senior female compared to male scientists, received fewer citations of their work once they became independent scientists than those mentored by male scientists.  Moreover, data showed that female mentors similarly “suffer” a lower number of citations of papers co-authored with their female trainees than male trainees. Other than the criticism that can be imposed on these data for limiting the mentoring outcome to the success in publishing, this report should serve as another wake-up call to the continuing gender bias in how female scientists and their work are treated by male-dominated review panels and editorial boards. Unfortunately, the authors appear to have chosen to use their data to recommend against female mentors, for which the Gender Equality Committee (GEC) of the International Union of Immunological Societies (IUIS) believes they, as well the Nature Communications editors, need to publicly apologize to all women scientists and mentors who have fought this bias for many years and should be supported in that fight rather than brought down by additional biases.

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