Oikos goes Double Blind

Submitted by editor on 26 January 2018.

Peer review is central to science, it is a necessary quality-control procedure to ensure that scientific research published in publications can be reproduced and trusted. While being an essential step in the scientific procedure, it is under severe pressure and according to some, we are even experiencing a peer review crisis. While the benefits of peer review are well known, many criticise the procedure because it would strengthen bias in publishing rather than ensuring a fair quality evaluation. There are many reasons why our peer review system might fail, the most important one is likely our massive in increase in submissions, and our lack of time and incentives to engage in the needed amount of peer review. There is also accumulating evidence that the ‘traditional’ single blind peer review imposes strong bias in the editorial decision making. This single-blind peer review is when the reviewers know the authors’ names but the authors don't know the reviewers’ names. In fields of social sciences, double blind review has become the norm as this procedure where the authors’ names are also hidden from the reviewers, has been shown to reduce bias against female and junior authors, authors affiliated to less renown research groups and institutes, and likely many more. We are not going into the details here as many have been reporting on this before (see e.g., Budden et al. 2008, Webb et al. 2008, and more recently Tomkins et al. 2017).

As this bias is implicit, it is very hard to be counteracted and solved by increasing awareness. Therefore, many society based journals in evolutionary biology (Evolution, Journal of Evolutionary Biology), but also ecology (American Naturalist, Conservation Biology and more recently also Global Ecology and Biogeography and Diversity and Distributions; see McGill et al. 2017) have taken the needed step to move to double blind. Even if the benefit cannot be statistically demonstrated, there is nothing to lose when it comes to improving the peer reviewing procedure.

As society-based journals should be on the foreground of unbiased science publications, we are delighted to announce that also the following Nordic-Society journals have adopted the double blind peer reviewing from January 2018 onwards: Oikos, Journal of Avian Biology and the Nordic Journal of Botany. In concrete, all these journals adopt the so called ‘soft-mandatory double blind approach’, the same procedure as followed by the formerly mentioned sister journals in ecology. By implementing this approach, authors will be asked to submit en extra title page containing all author information, which will be visible only to editors, and not to reviewers, whereas the main text file should be completely blinded from any author information. Authors thus not need to remove any self-citations (that’s why we refer to it as soft double blind review). Our own experience actually demonstrated that although citations might hint towards putative authors, one never can be sure, and that this uncertainty already removes any potential bias. Author information will be added to the manuscript upon acceptance by the editorial office.

We are confident that, by implementing this editorial strategy, we move a significant step forwards to make the peer review system more rigorous and fair for all. We thus hope that authors do recognise this effort from our side and will decide to keep sending their best work to one of our journals!

Oikos Editor in Chief, Dries Bonte

 

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

 Webb, T. J., O'Hara, B., & Freckleton, R. P. (2008). Does double-blind review benefit female authors? Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 23, 351–353.

Tomkins, A., Zhang, M. & Heavlin, W.D. Reviewer bias in single- versus double-blind peer review PNAS 2017 ; published ahead of print November 14, 2017, doi:10.1073/pnas.1707323114 

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