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As scientists, we view the peer review process as essential for protecting the quality and integrity of scientific publications. However, despite well-intentioned reviewers and editors, there are systemic and inherent biases that creep into the peer review process and undermine both the science and the scientists. While there is a robust body of literature evaluating the inequalities and inequities of peer review outcomes, the content of the reviews often remains unassessed. In 2019, we conducted an anonymous survey of 1100 international participants in STEM fields to determine the pervasiveness and long-term implications of receiving unfair, biased, and ad hominem comments as an author during peer review. Interestingly, our study found that all scientists, regardless of gender or race/ethnicity receive unprofessional comments in their reviews. However, historically marginalized groups in STEM fields are more likely to report direct, negative impacts on their scientific aptitude, productivity, and career advancement after receiving an unprofessional peer review. We will discuss the implications of these results and the peer review culture that continues to perpetuate the gap in STEM fields for historically marginalized groups in the sciences.
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