NCEAS Product 23488

Borsuk, Robyn; Aarssen, Lonnie W.; Budden, Amber E.; Koricheva, Julia; Leimu, Roosa; Tregenza, Tom; Lortie, Christopher J. 2009. To name or not to name: The effect of changing author gender on peer review. BioScience. Vol: 59. Pages 985–989. (Abstract) (Online version)


The peer review model is one of the most important tools used in science to assess the relative merit of research. We manipulated a published article to reflect one of the following four author designations: female, male, initial, and no name provided. This article was then reviewed by referees of both genders at various stages of scientific training. Name changing did not influence acceptance rates or quality ratings. Undergraduate referees were less critical than graduate students or postdoctoral researchers, independent of gender. However, female postdoctoral researchers were the most critical referees: Their rejection rates were the highest and quality ratings the lowest, regardless of the author name provided. Contrary to previous reports in the literature, there was no evidence of same-gender preferences. This study strongly suggests that female postgraduate biologists may apply different expectations to peer review.