Transparency versus anonymity: which is better to eliminate bias in peer review?

Authors: Faye Holst, Kim Eggleton, Simon Harris

Peer review is a critical component of the scientific process. When conducted properly by dedicated and competent reviewers, it helps to safeguard the quality, validity, authority and rigour of academic work. However, bias in peer review is well documented and can skew objectivity of the review and hinder fair assessment of research.

To mitigate against bias and enhance accountability, IOP Publishing has introduced two different, but complementary, approaches to all their peer-reviewed, open access (OA) journals: double-anonymous peer review and transparent peer review.

Double-anonymous peer review, where the reviewer and author identities are concealed, is designed to tackle inequality in the scholarly publishing process as it reduces bias with respect to gender, race, country of origin or affiliation.

Transparent peer review shows readers the full peer review history, including reviewer reports, editor decision letters and the authors’ responses alongside the published article. Making this process visible to the community increases accountability, allows reviewers to be recognized more for their work and can aid the training of aspiring reviewers.

IOP Publishing is the first physics publisher to adopt both of these approaches portfolio wide. In this article we discuss how applying these methods has altered different elements of the publishing process. Early indicators show that there may be a marked difference in acceptance rates across regions.

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