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Cancel Culture tries to get a Nature Communications paper retracted

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We are informed that all science Twitter is in a ghastly rage over an open access paper in Nature Communications which seems to show that female scientists benefit more from male mentors than from female mentors.

Abstract: We study mentorship in scientific collaborations, where a junior scientist is supported by potentially multiple senior collaborators, without them necessarily having formal supervisory roles. We identify 3 million mentor–protégé pairs and survey a random sample, verifying that their relationship involved some form of mentorship. We find that mentorship quality predicts the scientific impact of the papers written by protégés post mentorship without their mentors. We also find that increasing the proportion of female mentors is associated not only with a reduction in post-mentorship impact of female protégés, but also a reduction in the gain of female mentors. While current diversity policies encourage same-gender mentorships to retain women in academia, our findings raise the possibility that opposite-gender mentorship may actually increase the impact of women who pursue a scientific career. These findings add a new perspective to the policy debate on how to best elevate the status of women in science.

To a layperson with some life experience, that wouldn’t be a surprising outcome at all. In a system that has been male-dominated since forever, more guys would be higher up on the pole. And if you want to get ahead, it pays to know Top People…

But, of course, the Outrage Mob is sharpening the guillotine. Their final enemy is, after all, reality in any of its forms.

Here’s an open letter demanding retraction.

The editors of Nature put a disclaimer on the paper:

19 November 2020 Editor’s Note: Readers are alerted that this paper is subject to criticisms that are being considered by the editors. Those criticisms were targeted to the authors’ interpretation of their data that gender plays a role in the success of mentoring relationships between junior and senior researchers, in a way that undermines the role of female mentors and mentees. We are investigating the concerns raised and an editorial response will follow the resolution of these issues.

Note the responses at Twitter to Nature’s announcement that the matter is being looked into: Not good enough. Nuke the joint.

Nature’s kind of stuck here because it used to be a science publication. But you know the saying: Get woke, go choke. It’s not like anyone can have a reasonable discussion of how to best address these problems without triggering an onslaught of screaming harpies of all genders, demanding restitution for all problems, real, misunderstood, and imaginary.

A friend points out that, while the paper could be faulted for not factoring in existing imbalances in social power, it’s significant that the demand is for retraction, not rebuttal. In other words, as usual, the Woke don’t want to win a debate, they want to cancel it.

Here are some headlines and snippets on the topic:

After scalding critiques of study on gender and mentorship, journal says it is reviewing the work (Science)

The study, published on 17 November by a trio of researchers at New York University, Abu Dhabi, used a data set of more than 200 million scientific papers published over the course of more than 100 years to identify several million mentor-mentee pairs. It then followed the career achievements of the mentees, based on citations to papers they authored during their first 7 years as “senior scientists”—determined here only by the time since a researcher’s first publication.

They found that early-career scientists who co-wrote papers with what the authors call “big-shot” researchers—defined by their yearly citation rate—went on themselves to have citation rates that were higher than average. More controversial, they report that, overall, the more female mentors an early-career scientist had, the lower the impact of the papers they published when they became senior scientists. They found that the effect on impact, which was measured by citation rates, was particularly strong for female mentees. They also noted that female mentors of women “suffer on average a loss of 18% in citations on their mentored papers.” Lindzi Wessel, “After scalding critiques of study on gender and mentorship, journal says it is reviewing the work” at Science

Burning at the stake is too good for the authors, right?

Nature Communications blasted for paper knocking female mentors (Times Higher) “Scientists ask why major journal published findings that female mentors may be bad for your career, even after reviewers pointed out flaws in the paper’s methodology”

As if flaws in the methodology had anything to do with the main problem, which is a Politically Incorrect finding. The story was supposed to be “Courageous Female Mentors Score Big Wins”

And from an American feminist site:

Women Scientists Are Calling Bullsh[*]t On a Study Claiming That Women Make Bad STEM Mentors (Jezebel)

Last week, the scientific journal Nature Communications, an offshoot of the internationally respected journal Nature, enraged scientists, women, and anyone who has ever been near a graduate program by publishing a study that concluded maybe women mentors are actually hurting the career prospects of their mentees. As the study’s authors wrote, the research “suggests that female protégés who remain in academia reap more benefits when mentored by males rather than equally-impactful females.”

Emily Alford, “Women Scientists Are Calling Bullsh[*]t On a Study Claiming That Women Make Bad STEM Mentors” at Jezebel

The way Woke Science is going, many science publications may start sounding like Jezebel. And no doubt many editors will think that’s some sort of achievement.

Finally, at The Scientist, we are informed of the “outrage” and told further that “citations are a biased and narrow measure of scientific success.” But, surprisingly, some useful information escapes:

Roberta Sinatra, a scholar at the IT University of Copenhagen, uses big data to study publication, citation, mentorship, and success in science. She says that the methods used in the study, although flawed, are fairly standard in this field. The lack of gender information is a limitation of the dataset, but the algorithms are about 80 percent accurate, and questions about gender bias couldn’t begin to be addressed without this approach, she says. She commends the researchers for taking the extra step to do a survey to confirm that the authorship patterns do in fact reflect some measure of mentorship, but suggests that “chaperone,” rather than “mentor,” could be a more apt description of that relationship. Sinatra herself used that term in a 2018 study on publishing in high impact journals because, she says, the authorship patterns don’t reveal anything about the quality of mentorship.

“Overall, it’s a very thorough and comprehensive analysis,” Sinatra says, adding that she felt some of the methodological criticisms were unfair because the approaches are fairly standard in the field known as the science of science. But she agrees with critics who say the researchers should have been more careful in their interpretation of the results. “The interpretation starts from the idea that scientists have to achieve a higher number of citations. I think that is not a good starting point,” she says. “The idea that the goal of mentorship is to maximize the impact of citations later in a protégé’s career is a very shaky target.”

Viviane Callier, “Paper Recommends Women Avoid Female Mentors, Drawing Outrage” at The Scientist

Of course, in the real world, scientists are desperately anxious for citations and that is probably a reason the Nature Communications paper sought to study them.

Hey, leave the Woke in charge of science long enough and we won’t need to worry about big new advances that may threaten humanity—or any advances at all.

But the catfights…wow!

One Reply to “Cancel Culture tries to get a Nature Communications paper retracted

  1. 1
    polistra says:

    The key here is Scientific Impact, which is basically the same as SEO. It measures the effectiveness of a paper as clickbait. Has nothing to do with validity or originality.

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