On Wednesday, evolutionary geneticist Fiona Ingleby reported via Twitter that after submitting a scientific manuscript on gender differences in the Ph.D.-postdoc transition to one of the PLOS journals, she had received a single peer review comment explaining why her article would be rejected. And it was fucking unbelievable.
The sole reviewer, responsible for the decision to accept or reject the article for publication, said that Ingleby and her co-author Megan Head, an evolutionary biologist at the Australian National University, needed more male input.
In an email, Ingleby wrote, "Not only did the review seem unprofessional and inappropriate, but it didn't have any constructive or specific criticism to work on." Indeed, Science reports that the review only vaguely argues that the paper "has fundamental flaws and weaknesses that cannot be adequately addressed by mere revision of the manuscript, however extensive." The two have since issued for an appeal.
"PLOS regrets the tone, spirit and content of this particular review," PLOS said in a statement. "We take peer review seriously and are diligently and expeditiously looking into this matter. The appeal is in process. PLOS allows Academic Editors autonomy in how they handle manuscripts, but we always follow up if concerns are raised at any stage of the process. Our appeals policy also means that any complaints of the review process can be fully addressed and the author given opportunity to have their paper re-reviewed."