Concerns regarding a paper published by Nature Communications

(10-12-2020) In a letter to the editor in chief, Ghent University expresses its concerns about the paper ‘The Association between early career informal mentorship in academic collaborations and junior author performance’ published in Nature Communications.


On December 21st, 2020, the authors decided to retract their paper. More information can be found in the editorial and in the retraction note.

Letter to Nature Communications

Dear Editor-in-Chief of Nature Communications


Ghent University wants to express its serious concerns about the paper ‘The Association between early career informal mentorship in academic collaborations and junior author performance’ by Bedoor AlShebi and Kinga Makovi and Talal Rahwan published in Nature Communications on November 17th, 2020.

Ghent University objects to the fact that the authors limit mentorship to co-authorship, whereas the two are not identical. The authors also use citations to measure the success of mentoring. These methodological flaws do injustice to the many dimensions of mentorship as well as to the many aspects of a mentor-mentee relationship.

Taking into consideration the arguments in the article, Ghent University cannot agree with the general statement that female-female mentorships should be revised as they could hinder the careers of women in academia. This suggestion damages the work of generations of scientists and does not help to address systemic gender-related challenges in academia. Ghent University therefore firmly supports the concerns about the paper raised by the wider scientific community and welcomes the investigation announced by the editors.


Yours sincerely


Rik Van de Walle                                                                                        Mieke Van Herreweghe
Rector                                                                                                          Vice-Rector

Reaction Editor-in-Chief Nature Communications

Thank you for contacting us and for raising these concerns. As you can imagine, we are very aware of the many issues that have been flagged on Twitter and elsewhere on this paper, and we started an investigation to carefully scrutinise the concerns raised as a matter of priority, following our established procedures. We also published an Editor’s Note to alert readers of our ongoing investigation, and we will follow up with a further editorial response in due course. The investigation is about to conclude.

Our team is truly committed to supporting and promoting equity and diversity in research, and we have ensured, during the investigation, that the concerns raised were thoroughly re-evaluated and addressed. I am sorry that I cannot provide more information at this stage, but we will publicly update readers on the outcome of the investigation as soon as is possible.