Journal study suggests forcing open peer review could lead to more bias

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An entomologist at the University of Kentucky found that requiring peer reviewers to sign their names in their review comments could skew their results. In his article published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, Charles Fox, describe how he studied peer-reviewed articles for a leading journal and what he learned about the process.

When a researcher wants a journal to publish their research article, they submit it to an editor who then forwards it to several experts in the field for review. Normally, reviewers have the option of signing off on their review once they have completed it, but few do, preferring to keep their remarks anonymous. Logic suggests that most do it to prevent the research team from getting revenge on negative comments. In this new effort, Fox noted that as part of the push for open publication by some members of the scientific community, some have suggested that all reviewers be required to reveal their identities – he wondered what impact this might have. not just on the person doing the exam. but the document under review.

To find out more, he looked at reviews of papers accepted by the journal. Functional ecology for the years 2003 to 2005 and for 2013 to 2015. Looking at his data, he found that only 5.6% of reviewers signed off their comments. He also found that male reviewers were twice as likely to sign their reviews as women, and that reviewers were much more likely to reveal their identities if they left mostly positive reviews. And he found that the reviews suggested by the article’s authors were also more likely to put their name on their reviews. Additionally, interestingly, he found that reviewers who chose the “Professor” option as a greeting were 1.6 times more likely to sign their name than reviewers who chose to label themselves simply as “Dr.”.

Wolf suggests that the reluctance shown by critics suggests that they prefer to remain anonymous. He further suggests that the data indicates that requiring reviewers to sign their name could introduce bias into the comments that are made. And finally, he suggests that the reluctance seems to be more pronounced for female and junior reviewers.

Report reveals persistent global imbalance in distribution of peer review

More information:
Charles W. Fox, Which peer reviewers voluntarily reveal their identity to authors? An overview of the consequences of peer review of open identities, Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences (2021). DOI: 10.1098 / rspb.2021.1399

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