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Letters to the Editor

A Case for Double-Blind Review

Hirshfield, Laura E. PhD

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doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000003665
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To the Editor:

At the Association of American Medical Colleges 2019 Learn Serve Lead conference, I was pleased to attend a fantastic session, “A Conversation Among Readers, Editors, and Authors About the Medical Education Literature,” hosted by several editors of the major journals within medical education. However, I was troubled by one portion of the discussion about double- versus single-blind peer review. The majority of the journal editors who spoke, including former Academic Medicine Editor-in-Chief Dr. David P. Sklar, responded that there were no major benefits of double-blind review. Indeed, they felt that double-blind review involved many administrative and logistical costs.

Although there has long been debate about the topic, there is evidence outside of medical education that double-blind review may increase the likelihood for women and members of other marginalized groups to have their research published.1,2 There is also evidence that double-blind reviewing helps to mitigate any potentially unfair advantage that may be given to papers written by authors who are well known or who come from high-prestige institutions.3 It may thus discourage authors from offering “honorary authorship” to scholars, perhaps in the hopes of increasing their papers’ chances of publication.4

Findings such as these recently persuaded NASA to shift their stance toward blind review for funding decisions.5 A number of other scholarly disciplines, both large and small, use double-blind peer review for their journals as well. Thus, I urge the editors of Academic Medicine, a flagship journal in our discipline, to review and reconsider their stance on double-blind review.

References

1. Knobloch-Westerwick S, Glynn CJ, Huge M. The Matilda effect in science communication: An experiment on gender bias in publication quality perceptions and collaboration interest. Sci Commun. 2013;35:603–625
2. Budden AE, Tregenza T, Aarssen LW, Koricheva J, Leimu R, Lortie CJ. Double-blind review favours increased representation of female authors. Trends Ecol Evol. 2008;23:4–6
3. Tomkins A, Zhang M, Heavlin WD. Reviewer bias in single- versus double-blind peer review. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2017;114:12708–12713
4. Artino AR Jr, Driessen EW, Maggio LA. Ethical shades of gray: International frequency of scientific misconduct and questionable research practices in health professions education. Acad Med. 2019;94:76–84
5. Witze A. NASA changes how it divvies up telescope time to reduce gender bias. Nature. 2019;571:156
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