double-blind peer-review is a way to go for basic and pre-clinical studies

Today the most peer-review process in the prestigious journals is a single-blind, meaning that the reviewers know who the author(s) of the manuscript is(are) but not vice versa. Rarely, reviewers are allowed to disclose their own identities to the manuscripts’ authors, but in my experience and opinion, since reviewing is a process that require some degree of criticism and know one would prefer to be criticized by their own peers, an absolute majority of reviewers would not voluntarily disclose their own identity to the authors. So, double-open review process is less likely to be a viable option.

What is left is either currently operating single-blind or my favorite double-blind peer-review process. Current review process has two deficiencies: 1. not all editorially approved reviewers are of the same caliber, and 2. reviewers favor established names.

Double-blind evaluation would eliminate name bias favoritism.

Raising the quality of the reviewers, of course, would require conscious editorial decision. One solution would be for journal editors to send out potential reviewers names to researchers in the field and ask them to nominate the names. The names of the researchers selected to be reviewers should be published and be available for view. And I think it would helpful if the number of reviewers per submitted manuscript would be increased from current 3 to 5.

Many times I hear that double-blind peer review is impossible since the reviewer would be able to identify the manuscripts authors. Not really, in my view. The initial manuscripts will be submitted in two different formats, first regular one for the editor only and second one specific for the reviewers with no names, affiliations, acknowledgments, grant support information and statements likes “we”, “we showed before”, “as discussed in our previous” and so on. It is quite easy to accomplish. Now days scientific reagents, including commercial knockout mice strains, become so widely available that any research lab with sufficient resource can do a research indistinguishable from reagents point of view. The reviewers would not be able to identify the authors solely based on reagents and only criteria that would be left to examine will be the quality of the research manuscript itself.

Now, of course, established scientists would not like a double-blind review process since they will be the major subset that will be affected by elimination of bias and favoritism. However, double-blind review process would improve young scientists standing and would level the field to compete on the basis of objectivity and quality.

I do not even understand why there is still any discussion to implement or not double-blind review process for the scientific manuscripts. We are already using it in our clinical trials and no regulatory agency would approve any new drugs or biologicals without the results from double-blind trial. It is already overdue to introduce the similar level of scrutiny for basic and pre-clinical studies.

posted by David Usharauli


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