The argument for blinded peer review seems less and less plausible, argues Hilda Bastian in a recent post for PLOS blogs. She suggests that such blinding constitutes a trade-off between the extent to which revealing identities contributes to prejudiced decisions and a potential lack of peer reviewer accountability.
While it has been shown that double-blind peer review can reduce bias, in an earlier literature review the author found that the rate of blinding failure is high, ranging from 46% to 73%. Moreover, she argues that articles may contain markers – from writing style to field of study – that could provide enough information for a reviewer with prejudice to exploit. Finally, she looks at the stages of the editorial process and acknowledges that much of the decision-making process could be considered to be in the hands of the editor. As ‘triple blind’ review isn’t possible, and editors handle multiple manuscripts, the author argues that editors have the capacity to introduce more bias than a single peer reviewer.
For many, double-blind peer review is a sign of fairness, but Hilda argues that “it’s easier for a journal to offer double-blind peer review than to make themselves vulnerable to serious scrutiny”. However, the publication process is changing and as open peer review grows, along with the popularity of preprints and the push to provide peer reviewers with credit, a move towards openness and transparency may succeed in removing the problems that blinded peer-review has tried to prevent.