Review Policies Can Alleviate Bias Against Women

A recent article published in Trends in Ecology and Evolution (Budden et al., 2008) reveals that current journal review practices may result in bias against female authors.

Peer review is widely practiced in academia to ensure that the highest quality manuscripts are accepted for publication, or that grants funds are allocated to the research with the most potential.  In many disciplines, this practice is ‘single-blind’ in that the reviewer is aware of the author’s identity but not vice versa.  Concern that knowledge of an author may affect reviewer behavior has resulted in a number of journals implementing a ‘double-blind’ review policy, where neither author nor reviewer knows the others identity.

In 2001 Behavioral Ecology changed their review policy from single-blind to double-blind.  Analysis of author gender before and after this changed showed that proportionally more female first author papers were published under the double-blind review system.  Although there are increasing numbers of women in ecology and evolutionary biology, a commensurate increase in female authors was not observed in similar single-blind journals suggesting that double-blind review may help to alleviate bias in the reviewing process.

In light of evidence that the ecology and evolutionary biology community support double-blind review, the authors recommend that journals should revisit this policy.

Budden AE, Tregenza, T, Aarssen, L, Koricheva, J, Leimu, R, Lortie, C (2008). Double-blind review favours increased representation of female authors Trends in Ecology and Evolution 23(1): 4-6 

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Posted on January 14, 2008