Why it's sexist that top-tier papers are the unspoken requirement
Lately I've been having to explain this a lot, so I figured hey why not blog about it.
1. Nobody tells you it's a requirement
The thing about unspoken rules is that the in-crowd shares them with their proteges. The auslanders argue among themselves about whether there really are rules or not.
2. Publishing is sexist
Yeah, you can argue, but it's actually true that unconscious bias affects everything, including the supposedly objective non-blinded reviewing of papers. See for example this study .
Women, you should know that you are automatically at risk if your name sounds female, or if you're in a field where people know who you are.
Speaking with 5 women in different fields, we discovered that our papers were all trashed by reviewers in very unprofessional ways. We all thought we were the exception, until we noticed the pattern.
In one case, an observation from a male peer said it all (same age, same field, same tier publishing experience, who thought the work was really solid): "I've never seen reviews like this."
We all looked at each other.
Damn right you haven't. You have no idea.
3. Submitting papers is sexist
Within your own lab, you might experience what I've experienced over and over and over again.
First, my PIs have consistently undervalued my work (even as people from other labs were impressed by it), but nobody seemed to understand this. I felt like that guy who couldn't speak for 23 years because the doctors thought he was in a coma - screaming, trying to find a way to make people notice.
I did more work, and more quality work, than some of my male peers, and equal work to other male peers. And yet the men were systematically favored with opportunities to submit their papers to top-tier journals.
Then, when I had been forced to wait and wait and wait, I was told I couldn't submit to the same journals while the men's papers were still in review (which takes about a year, if you're talking about a top-tier journal and revisions).
Again, you could make all kinds of excuses for why this was the case, but it was pretty clear what my male peers had in common with our advisers to get these advantages in the first place: their favorite activities involved drinking, watching sports, and discussing the physical attributes of women's bodies. And because my male peers got more informal face-time, they had more chances to plug their work and keep themselves high on the radar.
Second, our PIs wanted to protect us from the heartache and frustration and length of time it takes to publish in top-tier journals. I'm not making this up. They told us we should plan to have babies; that it would take too long; that we weren't up for the fight; that we should go to industry; that we should run core facilities; that we should teach.
Third, they lied to us. They said it didn't matter. Simultaneously, they were advising our male peers on what other experiments they needed to do to get their papers accepted at top-tier journals when the time came, positioning them for success. Why were they telling us one thing while telling the men something else?
So when study sections and hiring committees decide that these papers are the mark of the best scientists, we should be asking ourselves, why?
Q: Do we really think the editors at these journals are the best scientists of all?
Q: Have the editors at these journals themselves published extensively in these journals?
Q: Have the study section members and hiring committees themselves published in these journals in order to get where they are now?
Q: Is there double-blinded review, for the most objective evaluation?
So why is this held up as the ultimate criteria of a qualified scientist?