Double-Blinding Author Names Suggested to Address Bias in Peer-Review
(Thursday, October 13, 2022)
Reviewers of papers submitted to journals can be biased towards authors with established credentials; for example, an article with a Nobel Laurette as an author is about 6 times more likely to get published without any significant comments compared to one by novice authors. This can be addressed by anonymizing the authors of the publication. Research on the publication bias found that authors with well-established credentials are preferred over novice authors in terms of being recommended for publication by peer reviewers. When the authors’ names were anonymized, the probability of being recommended for publication was more evenly distributed and based purely on the merits of the paper. While having a Nobel Laurette as an author is an extreme scenario, generally authors with well-established credentials such as a record of peer reviewed publications, independent awards, faculty positions at prestigious institutions, and other professional achievements, are more successful at repeat publications. This should not be surprising. Peer review process is almost entirely based on the honor system where the peer reviewers need to trust that the data included in the paper is accurate and authentic. So, not surprisingly, peer reviewers trust authors with previous record. Such unintentional bias is present in all aspects of life where credentials are verified for new ventures. For example, start-ups gravitate towards well-credentialed individuals for Board and Advisor positions as that helps attract investors. And it helps as investors looking for past records for new companies can rely on the trust they have in the abilities of the supporters of a new company. Even FDA started a pre-certification program for software as a medical device where companies with past reputation were given a preferential treatment over newer companies. That said, bias will always cloud better judgement. In peer-reviewed publications, it is well established that 70% of researchers are unable to reproduce the findings of other scientists, and about 85% of research expenditure is waste due to this, irrespective of the authorship of the publications. FDA found its pre-cert program had many issues and discontinued it. In the investment world, several Special Purpose Acquisition Companies (SPACs) were created in the last few years to monetize well-credentialed innovators and had limited success. In regulatory industry, FDA has not shown preference to well-credentialed individuals and companies for regulatory decisions. Your product will get similar data-driven treatment whether or not you have Nobel Laureates with you, and successful products come from all kinds of developers, those with several successful approved products, and those with their very first product. The peer review bias, hence, has less impact for the regulated industry.
Dr. Mukesh Kumar
Founder & CEO, FDAMap
Linkedin: Mukesh Kumar, PhD, RAC