Authors : Misha Teplitskiy, Daniel Acuna, Aida Elamrani-Raoult, Konrad Kording, James Evans
Personal connections between creators and evaluators of scientific works are ubiquitous, and the possibility of bias ever-present. Although connections have been shown to bias prospective judgments of (uncertain) future performance, it is unknown whether such biases occur in the much more concrete task of assessing the scientific validity of already completed work, and if so, why.
This study presents evidence that personal connections between authors and reviewers of neuroscience manuscripts are associated with biased judgments and explores the mechanisms driving the effect.
Using reviews from 7,981 neuroscience manuscripts submitted to the journal PLOS ONE, which instructs reviewers to evaluate manuscripts only on scientific validity, we find that reviewers favored authors close in the co-authorship network by ~0.11 points on a 1.0 – 4.0 scale for each step of proximity.
PLOS ONE’s validity-focused review and the substantial amount of favoritism shown by distant vs. very distant reviewers, both of whom should have little to gain from nepotism, point to the central role of substantive disagreements between scientists in different « schools of thought. »
The results suggest that removing bias from peer review cannot be accomplished simply by recusing the closely-connected reviewers, and highlight the value of recruiting reviewers embedded in diverse professional networks.
With the rise of Wikipedia as a first-stop source for scientific knowledge, it is important to compare its representation of that knowledge to that of the academic literature. This article approaches such a comparison through academic references made within the worlds 50 largest Wikipedias.
Previous studies have raised concerns that Wikipedia editors may simply use the most easily accessible academic sources rather than sources of the highest academic status. We test this claim by identifying the 250 most heavily used journals in each of 26 research fields (4,721 journals, 19.4M articles in total) indexed by the Scopus database, and modeling whether topic, academic status, and accessibility make articles from these journals more or less likely to be referenced on Wikipedia.
We find that, controlling for field and impact factor, the odds that an open access journal is referenced on the English Wikipedia are 47% higher compared to closed access journals. Moreover, in most of the worlds Wikipedias a journals high status (impact factor) and accessibility (open access policy) both greatly increase the probability of referencing.
Among the implications of this study is that the chief effect of open access policies may be to significantly amplify the diffusion of science, through an intermediary like Wikipedia, to a broad public audience.