Nature to allow double-blind peer review

Journal’s decision follows trial that found ‘no effect’ on quality of reviews, writes Holly Else

February 18, 2015

A top science journal is to offer authors the chance to remain anonymous when their manuscript goes through peer review.

Nature and the wider stable of Nature research journals will introduce so-called “double-blind peer review” over the coming months as part of a trial.

The journals will continue to offer researchers the option of publishing their research using more traditional single-blind peer review, where the identity of the reviewers is concealed but they know the authors.

Some believe that the single-blind peer review, which is used by the majority of journals, can be open to bias because reviewers form judgements about a piece of research based on the identity of its authors. Factors that could unduly influence the review process include an author’s university, status in the field or gender.

Advocates of a double-blind process say that concealing the identity of the authors makes the review more objective.

The change will be announced in an editorial in this week’s issue of Nature and has been introduced in response to author feedback.

It follows trials of double-blind peer review in Nature Geoscience and Nature Climate Change that began in June 2013.

Authors of about 20 per cent of submissions during this trial opted to remain anonymous and the journals found the process had “no substantive effects” on the quality of reviews, says Nature.

A recent survey of 29,000 readers found that the majority supported double-blind peer review, with 78 per cent saying it was a good or very good idea.

Face-to-face interviews with young scientists also suggested that they wanted the option of concealing their identity from reviewers.

Veronique Kiermer, director of author and reviewer services at Nature Publishing Group, said: “It has become increasingly clear over the years that researchers think that double-blind peer review is an effective system. We want to act on that, offering this as an option and learning from the take-up and feedback.”

She added: “There are no perfect solutions to a process that is often characterised as involving multiple conflicting interests, but peer review is at the heart of the scientific process and we are committed to finding the best possible ways of facilitating it.

“Our editors have always tried to ensure that they mitigate the biases that may appear in the process and we will continue to do that as we progress with this experiment.”

Nature Publishing Group’s open access journal, Nature Communications, will join the trial later this year.

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