With the intention to reduce unconscious bias in peer review, as Chief Editor of Nature Geoscience I introduced double blind peer review in 2013. Two years later, this peer review option - allowing authors to remain anonymous to reviewers, just as most reviewers are anonymous to authors - was rolled out to Nature and all the Nature-branded journals; it is also on offer at the Communications journals. But when double blind peer review is optional, there is a catch: authors requesting double-blind peer review can be perceived as a self-selection of those who are in less privileged positions, especially given relatively modest uptake rates of around 12%, as we see at Nature and the Nature Research journals. Such a perception, of course, defeats the purpose of double blind peer review. Double blind peer review is therefore most effective when it is applied to all manuscripts, rather than offered as an option.
We invite you to participate in our survey that explores the views of researchers in the Earth, environmental and planetary sciences around universal double blind peer review.
Authors’ identities will never be a perfectly kept secret, and we would not want to restrict the free exchange of ideas. If a potential reviewer happens to have seen an author’s talk at a meeting, or know about their work through other channels, we would not rule them out to help with the peer review process. In addition, at Communications Earth & Environment, we support authors who wish to publish their draft paper as a preprint: for those manuscripts, it will be possible for reviewers to find out the identities of the author team, if they choose to search around for the paper. Nevertheless, reviewers also have the choice to be unaware of author information, and thus to eliminate their own potential unconcious bias – an option they do not have when the author information is prominent on the first page of the paper.
At Communications Earth & Environment, we would like to make the playing field as level as we can for all researchers, whoever they are and wherever they do their research. Do you think universal double blind peer review at the journal could help with that? Please let us know here.