25/11/2020

VIB statement relating to the article entitled ‘The Association between early career informal mentorship in academic collaborations and junior author performance’ by Bedoor AlShebi and colleagues published in Nature Communications. 

VIB wishes to voice its concern and strong disagreement with the content and conclusions of the above-mentioned paper that was published in Nature Communications on November 17th, 2020. 


We are particularly distressed by the following statements in the article: 

  1. Female mentees who remain in academia reap more benefits when mentored by a man than by an equally-impactful female scientist. 
  2. Mentors benefit more when working with male mentees rather than working with comparable female mentees especially when the mentor is a woman and 
  3. The suggestion that current diversity policies promoting female-female mentorships could hinder the careers of women who remain in academia in unexpected ways. 

As a leading European research institute, we support the concerns raised by the scientific community that this paper entails severe methodological flaws and wrong assumptions that have led to inaccurate conclusions. Mentoring entails multiple aspects of scientific and non-scientific guidance and support, not uncommonly implicating several mentors over one’s career, that go far beyond first publications. Thus, the success of a mentor-mentee relationship cannot be simply appraised by the number of citations. The authors seem to suggest that the mentorship by a female scientist is damaging to the future career of a female mentee, which would be an insult to female scientists, and women in general, and exacerbates the discrimination and implicit bias against women in science. 

We are concerned that such statements have found their place in a highly respected journal like Nature Communications. We sincerely hope that the journal will consider the serious concerns raised by the scientific community and will decide to retract the paper.   

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