Why Can’t a Woman be more like a Man?

Last autumn there were some shocking figures released by the Royal Society regarding the new cohort of University Research Fellows (URFs): only two out of 43 were women. Many of us were very disappointed and depressed by these figures. I wrote about them at the time , as did the Royal Society’s President Paul Nurse on his own blog. But I’m pleased to say shock and depression translated into action. The Royal Society has conducted a thorough review of last year’s process. The review team consisted of 3 Council members, two women and a man. I was not involved but as a Council member myself I have followed the analysis and outcomes with great interest; they were presented at various times so that Council could properly discuss them and make their own input into how things could be moved forward. Their report was published yesterday, along with a further blogpost from the President.

The short answer is no smoking gun was found. There is absolutely no evidence that anyone behaved improperly or that panels did anything other than what they thought was the best they could. Nevertheless, the outcomes clearly indicate that all is not necessarily well in the URF ecosystem. Perhaps this should not surprise us.

The first issue is that the numbers of women applying are too low. We could blame the women for being too timid. Why aren’t the women more like (some) men, bumptious and always willing to put themselves forward? This must surely be the wrong way to think about things, a way that amounts to a deficit model of gender. If women aren’t putting themselves forward in proportion to the numbers in the potential pool we have a problem, and the women aren’t the problem. The onus must be on the mentors, sponsors, heads of department, colleagues and friends to tap bright young researchers – of whichever gender ­­– and encourage them to apply. Clearly at the moment this isn’t happening effectively enough. Women should not be put off by applying by their biological clocks either: the URF scheme has for a number of years offered great flexibility in terms of taking maternity (and now parental) leave and working part-time. I do hope potential applicants read the smallprint if they need convincing on this front.

I have described this as the first problem. In many ways this is the absolute fundamental problem and, for all the President in his blog is calling on Fellows to do their bit in encouraging young female researchers to apply, it really is up to the entire community. There must be many excellent potential applicants who do not have an FRS within range who could do this encouraging. Maybe the community doesn’t know what the standard/ typical CV of a successful applicant looks like; how can they judge whether their junior colleague stands a chance of success and are reluctant to encourage in case this leads to failure? The Royal Society is committing to putting some examples of successful applicants on to their website to resolve this issue. It can only be an indicator but it may help individuals to work out whether they should throw their hat into the ring – or encourage others so to do.

Finally, I am sure there are those who are deeply suspicious that, since the Royal Society has always been a pale and male (if not stale) institution the fault must surely lie in the predominantly pale and male panels. It is quite possible that the panels do indeed judge women harder than men. All the evidence points to this tending to happen quite unconsciously in many different situations, regardless of whether it is men or women who are doing the judging. But there is nothing to indicate anything conscious or deliberate going on. Every Royal Society committee I have sat on in the last few years has taken gender seriously and, although I haven’t sat on an URF panel, I see no reason to believe they will not have done so too. That doesn’t alter the fact that letters of reference for shortlisted candidates may have been gendered; again the evidence is clear this tends to happen across the board. (So another plea to the wider community: think how you write letters of reference, for URF positions or anything else.) For all these reasons the Royal Society is also committing itself to providing training for Chairs and panels to remind them of the issues and to be aware of others who may be less conscious of the concerns. As I proposed before, I would still like to see observers attending panels who may also act as neutral consciences, a matter that is still under consideration. In particular I believe this might make it easier to interweave results from different panels.

I have, as I say, watched the debate going on within the Royal Society and I have discussed it with the President and other senior figures. I am, as readers of this blog will no doubt have concluded for themselves, anxious about gender issues and I don’t believe I am easily hoodwinked. Everything I have seen occurring in the months since the story first broke in September indicates to me that this genuinely is a matter of huge concern to the Society and one they are determined to do all they can to crack. There is not the slightest hint they wish to sweep the problem under the carpet. It is important to reflect (as the report spells out very clearly) on average over the years the success rate has been broadly comparable for male and female applicants. 2014 may have been appalling in one sense, but it is also completely out of line with prior results; it remains the case that a small(ish) statistical blip could account for the poor outcome for women without needing any conspiracy theories.

I applaud the genuine soul-searching that the President and others have gone through rather than some superficial mock hand-wringing by the collective organisation the usual detractors might have expected. Of crucial concern will be what happens next. So, if you know a bright female early career researcher, what are you going to do? Will you be tapping them on the shoulder, drawing the URF competition to their attention and saying ‘go for it’. Or will you instead say, ‘oh don’t bother the Royal Society doesn’t usually appoint women so go and bury your head in the sand?’ I know what I hope senior researchers will do. Unless they do take the former course of action not the latter we will never see an improvement in the application pool. And without larger numbers applying women will continue to be awarded these fellowships in depressingly small numbers absolutely irrespective of anything the Royal Society may attempt to do internally.



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24 Responses to Why Can’t a Woman be more like a Man?

  1. Anonymous says:

    I applaud the Royal Society for taking this issue so seriously, and for the comprehensive review they’ve undertaken. Gender inequality at this career stage is a pervasive problem across science, and it is great to see such an august body taking a clear stance on the issue.

    One possible issue that I don’t think is mentioned in the report is the emphasis in many of these schemes on moving institution. I’m not sure if the URF notes explicitly mention this, but the SHDF notes make it clear that applicants should really be applying to work in a different institution, or provide a “strong justification” why not, and I think the perception among applicants may be that the same may be true for URF and similar schemes even if not explicitly stated.

    A requirement to move institutions should of course inconvenience both genders but, in the real world, it is still often the case that it might disproportionately impact women, for all sorts of social and economic reasons that have been well explored in your blog. Perhaps it is worth examining in the context of URF applications; could the URF notes be modified to state explicitly that applicants wishing to stay in their current institution should justify why it’s the best place to do the proposed research, but that they will not be disadvantaged by doing so?

  2. Anonymous_too says:

    I agree with Anonymous – in a recent fellowship application, despite the instructions being clear that remaining at your current institution for family reasons is a good reason, all three referees of my science case complained that I was planning on remaining at my current institute and said that my application would have been stronger if I was moving elsewhere.

    I am 6 months pregnant – moving around the country to live apart from my partner to suit a referee’s whim isn’t exactly something I’m planning on doing at the moment. It also makes me wonder what the point in reapplying next year is.

  3. Anonymous2 says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with the above comment. I am in the process of applying for a number of early career fellowships at the moment, and so far every single one has put a very strong emphasis on moving institutions. I am about as young as you can be to be eligible for these positions, and I am 30. I am also married to a non-academic who cannot just up and move every 3 years to follow me around. Needing a “strong academic justification” under this circumstances may not be discriminatory at face value, but in practice it impacts women very heavily, and indeed anyone with a family and a working spouse. Furthermore, in these days of global communication and international collaboration it seems a hugely disproportionate emphasis on something that is decreasing in benefit and increasing in the limitations it puts on individuals.

    I wonder if perhaps the panel members may in practice forget the life stage of the people applying in this respect. We are not young twenty-somethings who want to travel the world, nor are we 1960s men with housewives who can follow us around. We are thirty-somethings in an economy where both members of a household have to work to get by, and where moving every three years is not really an option.

  4. Leila says:

    I agree with anonymous above on the mobility point. I remember during my SHDF application that on more than one occasion my desire to stay in the same institution was questioned and highlighted as a potential issue. It was clearly judged negatively, despite what I thought was quite a robust argument as to why it made sense for my work.

    On the report itself, I am slightly perplexed as to why the investigation, having not found an obvious pattern of systematic bias or wrongdoing, has ended without a clear statement of what they believe has occurred.

    Either the conclusion is this is a random occurrence i.e. a year in which the quality of female applicants (judged as objectively as possible) really was 4 fold lower than those of the male applicants. Alternatively, the female applicants were subject to a range of different biases/discrimination and meaning no particular single cause appears dominant, but nonetheless collectively the women were systematically disadvantaged.

    I appreciate getting to the bottom of this would require a more detailed re-assessment of the individual applications and decisions than appears to have been undertaken, and that this would be time consuming and laborious, but given that an obvious answer hasn’t fallen out of the data I don’t see how this can be avoided.

    As Athene has said, if the reasons lie in the gendering of reference letters, the unconscious bias of referees, or poorly constructed proposals that could have been improved by experienced mentors within institutions, these will only be detected by more detailed examination.

    I appreciate the determination of the RS to ‘do something’ despite not knowing quite what the source of the problem is (or even if there really is a problem) but do worry whether their actions will be as effective as they would have been if they were guided by a clear understanding of why this had happened in the first place.

  5. Emily says:

    Sightly off topic but the mobility issue is also an environmental issue. Why is relocating every three years promoted (and international travel favored?) given the impacts on greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution (ozone, NOx, particulates …)(ditto international conferences). It also discourages community/environmental citizenship/responsibilities, it is difficult to participate meaningfully when moving every few years.

  6. Kate says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with the above comments on mobility – I had two small children at the relevant career stage and because of that I never even applied for a fellowship, something I later regretted when the implications for my career trajectory options became apparent. Indeed, that one-way-valve thing is something else we could eradicate to improve things for women (ie that once an individual is in a permanent HEFCE-funded post, fellowships are never again an option).

    Another point I wanted to comment on is “if you know a bright female early career researcher…” – all the evidence is that people consistently underestimate female intelligence relative to male, and for this and other reasons these things shouldn’t be left to individuals’ ad hoc assessments of others – institutions should have systematic procedures in place for reviewing all the CVs of all their early-career researchers (preferably anonymously).

    And finally, on anonymous assessment, I would like to see all granting bodies (not just Roy Soc) have a first-round triage process where all grant proposals are anonymised and scored on pure scientific merit irrespective of individual track record.

  7. Anonymous3 says:

    Why didn’t the RS bother with any independent assessment or input as part of the review? The comments above show that there are angles that have been missed. It’s quite an assumption to make that three members of Council – irrespective of their gender – are competent to do this, and the conclusion of the report is essentially just a shrug. Just because the President takes it jolly seriously doesn’t mean that the RS will actually fix anything without some help.

    I was personally disappointed not to see any probabilistic analysis of the outcome. Doesn’t the RS have mathematicians and statisticians anymore?

    Overall the report is a bit weak considering the time elapsed. An external group could have produced something similar in a tenth of the time, or something much more thoughtful and analytical over this period.

  8. Uta Frith says:

    Thank you, Athene, for explaining more about the background of the URF report and for proposing positive steps for future action. I too am still worried about the ‘blip’ in 2014, but I have been persuaded by the statistical analysis that the success rate for female applicants has been relatively stable over the last 5 years and is no worse than that of male applicants. The spotlight now must be on why fewer women apply in the first place. It will be important to remove barriers that turn women off from applying, such as the implicit preference for people who are happy to move geographically, or for people who are not so worried about job security. Even if some barriers are removed, and even if we can encourage lots of talented women to apply, we need to worry about the fact that the amount of funding available is not going up.

  9. Sarah Bridle says:

    I read this with interest while procrastinating writing a grant application for a different fellowship – for which there is an explicit extension of the eligibility period per maternity leave of 18 months per maternity leave. Indeed I wouldn’t be writing my application if that were not the case because I wouldn’t be eligible. Of course there absolutely are many issues here (including: I agree about the relocation issue) and we could debate whether 18 months is the “correct” duration and how it should apply to paternity leave etc, but I’m sure that the relevant duration (impact on research output) is usually a lot greater the actual time taken off work for the maternity leave. I see on the front page of the Royal Society URF scheme that “The applicant must be in the early stages of their research career and must have between 3 to 8 years of research experience since their PhD by the closing date of the round.”. I wonder if the Royal Society URF scheme has any explicit extension of the 8 year maximum per maternity leave (apologies that I haven’t read the scheme notes because I should be writing my other proposal..) and, if so, I think it would help to advertise this on the front page.

  10. There are many points raised here which I am sure the RS will continue to consider (I have already drawn these comments to their attention). The mobility issue is a key one which is probably more appreciated by some individuals/panels than others but it isn’t in itself a formal criterion. It clearly needs to be looked at more seriously, possibly in the context of the promised programme of action directed at panels, perhaps in terms of research into gender issues more generally that is under consideration.

    Leila, Yes the statistics have been looked at, internally and externally. Yes they suggest this was unlikely to be a random occurrence but that doesn’t really help unless we know what meant that it wasn’t random. Hence trying to dig down into the workings of the panels. Now I believe (and clearly the investigating panel did too) it is more important to make sure this can never happen again – hence all the recommmendations – than to look back at this past year’s individuals and their fate. The decisions made then can’t be undone even if any such further investigation had suggested where one person or another might have been moved up or down the ranking. But for next year much more careful attention will be paid at every stage to reduce any biases that might otherwise have occurred.

    Finally, Sarah, I think the wording for the URF eligibility of 3-8 years research activity is meant to indicate that if you have taken leave (for whatever reason) then that time you are not working you are not research active so the eligibility window is explicitly extended. This also allows for pro rata extensions if you work part time. Perhaps that could be spelled out more clearly on the front page, but I think the actual application process makes it pretty clear.

  11. I think the mobility issue affects men and women alike, 2 academics getting a job in the same place is not always easy. I think this issue however is more difficult than it seems. Staying in the same institution as a PhD, post-doc, then an early career researcher may not be the healthiest for science as a whole,moving broadens your experience and generates different ideas. Also, if the same people never move we become more stale and no one else can break into an institution. I am not trying to be deliberately contentious, I just think these issues are never as easy as they seem.

    On the issue of women don’t apply as much. Well it seems like when they do they are deemed 4x worse then their male counterparts ? I find this a bit unbeliveable as usually the differences are really slight …. And how do you judge that? I like that Athene is saying the community should select people as it’s a bit difficult to evoke a change unless someone senior makes that happen… It also is a move away from the blame game ‘women just weren’t as good’ and ‘women don’t apply’ But as I said above it’s not very encouraging to apply when the outcome looks a bit pre-determined e.g. why would you appy if the likely outcome would be that you were assessed as 4x worse than your male colleagues ?

  12. Anonymous says:

    I completely agree about the mobility issue. But the way that this affects women is even more complicated that this. If women choose to relocate, they often have to work away from home, perhaps doing a weekly commute, because, as various studies indicate, men are far less willing to follow partners than women. (I have done this, one way or another, for my whole academic career) This then causes huge conflicts of loyalty for women- do they try to be ubiquitous at work to show commitment, and thus neglect family and negatively affect relationships, or do they go home and risk overt or covert accusations of being ‘a part timer’? When I was an ECR I was openly criticised by senior colleagues because I was not seen working in the department at weekends. Now things are more enlightened and email means we are always at work, but still, In various places, I have heard snarky comments about female commuters, at different career stages, including very senior ones that ‘she’s never here, you know’ which seems to matter more than whether she is doing a good job. I still worry that this is said of me. I think recognition of this is an important point in terms of promoting diversity. The danger is that we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t.

  13. Anna Watts says:

    When I was at the stage where I could have applied for a URF, there was a perception (at least amongst the people close to me) that it was most likely futile unless one already had a close working relationship/history with an FRS. More than one colleague mentioned that they were embarking on a dedicated period of ‘sucking-up’ (their words) to an FRS in their field, in advance of an application, to ensure a better chance. I have no idea whether this is true or not, but if such a perception does still exist it would certainly be a barrier to application, possibly one that is higher for women than for men. As such it would be interesting to find out whether URF awardees *do* have an anomalously level of prior connection to the FRS population, either directly or via their letter writers.

  14. Jonathan says:

    One related point would be on providing feedback to applicants. Both when I applied years back and more recently when I’ve supported several applicants, the URF scheme has chosen to provide only boilerplate feedback. This is in contrast to similar schemes like the STFC Rutherford, where applicants receive referee reports for rebuttal, EU grants like the ERC or Marie Curie, where applicants receive detailed feedback and numerical scores, or the smaller RS Dorothy Hodgkin scheme. My sense is that many applicants for the URF get it on a second or third application, but that requires persistence. If you want to encourage, not only new applicants, but reapplication from people that may have improved significantly over a year or two then the RS might want to consider ways of providing feedback beyond “funded”, “interviewed”, “not interested”. I think this is a general point, but perhaps particularly relevant to female applicants, who might be more self-critical from the beginning, and less well connected applicants, who might lack an FRS to tell them the ins and outs of the process.

  15. Anonymous2 says:

    I disagree that staying in the same institution leads of staleness – staying in the same lab, yes – but most big university departments have a lot of variety within them, and there is often collaborations between departments. I have worked with a whole host of different researchers and am forming collaborations that extend into different fields, and I have no need to move institutions to do so – my institution is very large! But this counts for nothing seemingly. Maybe its the wording that needs to change – not “provide justification for staying in the same place” but “tell us how you are keeping your skills and experiences broad and fresh” or something – to take account for the other ways you can gain broad experience apart from moving institution

  16. Poonam Malik says:

    Hello Athene
    Interesting read and even more applaudible efforts of Royal Society to get to the bottom of the issue.

    However, it still doesn’t clarify the point of how many female applicants were actually there in 2014 URF round of which only 2 made it to final selection?
    How many were turned down in the initial screening selection round itself, which seems to be more harsher then once your application actually goes out to subject specialist reviewers and full panel.
    How many of these applications from female applicants were screened in initial rounds by two referees because they did not look as productive at comparative stage of their career as their male counterpart competitions because they had taken time off to have a baby?

    Another Issue is that by extending time of application by the exact same amount of time that a female applicant has taken off as maternity leave is never going to provide a reasonable solution.
    Anyone who has worked in science and has had the experience of having a baby and a young child can vouch for the fact work affected by taking a four months maternity leave is never actually equivalent to four months off on paper. Impact of a young child in early years is totally different due to various needs and issues of the child.

    The total impact of having a baby, shutting down your project work, lab in case of young researchers and then upon return from maternity leave try to restart project is way more than the exact time on paper.
    Which is why in Europe it is 18 month – 2 yrs extension per baby for applications rather than exact maternity keave period claimed!

  17. Anonymous_too says:

    Anonymous2 has a really good point – in the 7 years I have been at my host institution I have worked in 3 different areas, and other researchers and academic staff have arrived and left, the expertise here is not the same as it was even 3 years ago. But the fact that this has happened seems to count for nothing when compared to the fact that I’m in the same geographical location…

    Not moving institutes seems to count as being “not ambitious enough”, irrelevant of whether it is required for the science or not.

  18. Lidunka says:

    I suggest the RS pro-actively advertise how excellent a URF is for those with/expecting/hoping-to-have children (or, indeed, any other caring responsibilities). The reality is that a lectureship or equivalent is far less flexible than a URF. When I questioned applying for a URF because I wanted children, my mentor correctly replied being on a URF was actually the perfect time to have children. Not only are your hours almost infinitely flexible, you can also apply for funding for childcare at, for example, conferences – something that Universities are only slowly taking on board (doubtless as a result of Athena). And a URF has more security than you might think compared to a lectureship – a cv with a RSURF on it shines in the academic selection process.

    I would also agree with those that suggest that the duration of maternity leave does not, in any way, represent the time the “effect” of having children has on your brain (my brain has yet to recover 14 years later). I do not expect the RS to fully account for this, but just realise that having children goes well beyond 4 months maternity.

    Finally, the “tapping on the shoulder” of bright young female researchers needs to start earlier – getting them their first and second postdoc. In my experience, female PhD students question whether they are able enough to continue, whilst male equivalents just ask you for references for applications they have made (massive generalisation, but you get the point).

  19. Anon4 says:

    I’m pretty much leaving academia for the reasons described in the comments above (currently a (female) PhD student). I don’t want to move round the country/world every few years for at least the next decade, but this seems to be effectively a requirement, and indeed an explicitly stated one for the most prestigious schemes. My partner’s job is not flexible, and actually I’m quite tired of living 4 hours away from home. The reaction to this seems to be variations on the following: I don’t love science enough, I should be happy to make the sacrifice, everyone in academia sacrifices things for doing what they love, if my relationship is strong enough it shouldn’t be a problem, can’t my partner move, if I can’t take the heat I should stay out of the kitchen. It’s definitely seen as my failing, I think – people see it as just that I’m not good enough as a scientist, and indeed not ambitious enough, because if I was good enough then I would stay. Academia doesn’t want people like me who are supposedly not prepared to make the effort. In actuality I feel like I am rejecting academia, not the other way round – the price is simply too high.

    As for the Royal Society… if I imagine an event for Royal Society people, and think to myself, “could I do that one day?”, and try to picture myself there, what comes to mind is being patronised and possibly hit on by a load of old white middle class men. (Worryingly my next thought was “like a conference but worse”, which says a lot about my experience of conferences!). I recognise that this perception is probably wrong and is doubtless not fair to the many lovely people there, and I am sorry for what it’s worth, but it’s a bit alarming that I have this perception in the first place. There is nobody like me there.

    I hadn’t realised how much this does actually affect what I think of the Royal Society and other institutions until writing this. Usually I see the comments about a lack of role models in some field and think surely that’s just silly, that can’t really be a factor in people’s decisions, surely you just go for it anyway. Now suddenly I get it. It’s not so much a factor in my decision to apply for something or not per se – it’s more that this image I have means the Royal Society (and how many other places I wonder) wouldn’t even make my list of things to apply for in the first place. It’s just not on my radar – they are not like me, I would never get it, why would I even look up their fellowships let alone waste time and effort applying. It seems I am far more of a textbook leaky pipeline case than I had realised. I feel slightly guilty for letting the side down to be honest, but there just doesn’t seem to be any practical way to do it. So, I’ll find some other hopefully fulfilling career and off I’ll go.

  20. Sylvia – as the report makes clear, it is only in 2014 the success rate for women was so low. In other years there is nothing to support the idea that women are seen as four times less good and it is dangerous to perpetuate that idea when averaged over the 5 years of the dataset it simply isn’t true.

    Poonam – Figure 1 in the report gives the numbers of applicants, by gender, over the past 5 years.

    The ERC does indeed allow 18 months per child, but makes no allowance for part-time working
    which the RS does. So there are patterns of working for which the RS would work out to be much more generous. I wrote about this here.

    It is sad that the mere idea of the RS is enough to put some people off. I have found it a very welcoming place to be, although I wish they would move rather faster on changing the portraits and general imagery, something that has been on the cards for some considerable time but hasn’t yet occurred.

    I am really grateful for the thoughtful comments being posted here. I am drawing them to the attention of those who may be in a position to reword or rework issues around the URF competition.

  21. Anonymous_too says:

    Athene, while you are looking at the comments on the URF, can I also comment on the Dorothy Hodgkin fellowships and ask why they have such a stringent short time limit on them? I understand the need for early career fellowships, I’m just a little confused as to an early career fellowship with a requirement for flexible working.

    I don’t know many postdocs in the UK who have considered having a child before the age of 30 – thus making them ineligible for this scheme.

    • The Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowships were originally set up solely for women with the hopes that it would encourage women to stay in science when they were contemplating a family. When this was no longer legally allowed, various changes were tried, in the end moving to this requirement for flexible working, for whatever reason. The majority of the applicants are parents (and more specifically mothers) although other reasons are often cited too. You may not know many postdocs with children but the reality is the competition is very severe and the RS has been trying to obtain funding to be able to award more. It isn’t quite how the scheme was originally conceived, but it is clearly satisfying a very important need.

      • Anon for this says:

        The DH scheme is a great concept and not every fellowship scheme will suit every applicant. However the way the current schemes fit together and the different limits on postdoc time between URF, DH and SHD seems out of balance. I agree with Anonymous_too that you need to have contemplated starting a family much earlier than many scientists do or want to in order to be eligible for the Dorothy Hodgkin.

        A six year limit on post-doc experience means making decisions about mobility and child-bearing very early on during the postdoc years in order to allow time to get pregnant, give birth and then apply; this is also complicated by the possibility of miscarriage or infertility affecting that timeline, plus the constraints of two body problems and qualifying for maternity leave on short-term contracts. If the limit were 8 years (like the URFs), you would get many, many more people applying.

        However It isn’t clear to me why the URFs don’t also encompass the people who apply for the DH scheme, given that they can be held flexibly and as Lidunka says above offer many advantages for people in that situation?

        The Royal Society seem to have inadvertently set up a weird dichotomy where there are ‘people’ and then there are ‘women who had children early on in postdoc/ PhD’; I wonder how much that contributes to the feeling along early-ish career women that URFs aren’t for people like us that stops people applying.

  22. NIcola says:

    Yes, I also agree with all the other comments about the mobility issue and I think perhaps greater clarification in the guidance about what an appropriate “justification” is.

    I’d like to add that the external review process is a key point in the assessment of proposals, but I don’t think this has been fully considered in the report. Only 8% of the reviewers were female, but as we know, both male and females have a tendency to subconsciously rate male applicants higher than female applicants. I think reviews of the scientific aspects need to be carried out anonymously, separately from the candidates track record. Otherwise you can never have any guarantee of a completely unbiased process.

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