Moving *away* from anonymous review??

Over the last couple of decades, the evidence of implicit bias has been piling up, including evidence of its role in review of journal articles.  So you’d think this would lead to more journals adopting a double-anonymous process, in which names of authors are concealed from reviewers.  Shocking, then, to learn that The American Economic Review is moving in the opposite direction.  As Ingrid Robeyns rightly notes, their reasons are pretty poor: (1) Reviewers can google article names and thereby lose the anonymity.  (Robeyns has a great suggestion here: Require submission of articles under a different title from that used online.  Also, ask the referees NOT to seek out this information and to reveal that they know the authors identity if they happen to discover it.  Yes, some referees might violate this policy.  But that’s no reason not to increase fairness by having it!)  (2) It’s administratively costly to anonymise.  (Yes, but worth every penny if you care about publishing the best work– and not actually all that costly if you build it into the increasingly widely used submission software.)  (3) With anonymity, it’s harder for referees to check for potential conflicts of interest.  (Fine– then do this at a later stage in the process!)


Petition to follow, I’ve been told.


7 thoughts on “Moving *away* from anonymous review??

  1. I’m definitely for keeping anonymity–and maybe have referees check a box certifying that on their honor they they don’t know the source of the article. Or at least in their report coming clean about whether they’ve read it before. I’ve done this. I don’t google to see where articles come from but more than once I’ll get an article that I’ve read online very recently and remember because I’m always surfing the web and going through PhilPapers for articles in my field. Even if completely blind review 100% of the time is impossible journals can still make expectations clear and insist on full disclosure.

  2. I find Ingrid Robeyns post at Crooked Timber quite apt and important (including the references to work/concerns of certain feminist philosophers here). I also endorse H. A. Baber’s very plausible comment. Such measures might well evince the moral consciences of dishonest (and/or unprofessional) conduct by certain referees (and possibly allow editors to make their own judgments of how to proceed given appropriate forthrightness by referees).

    I would venture further and contend that we could document evidence of explicit bias by both journal referees and editors. I imagine many referees and editors rationalize any such bias by various sorts of appeal to merit or quality. I also know of several cases of (what some people might call) plain cronyism (and even discrimination), and I also know of several people who know of several such cases themselves. I believe numerous cliques have developed in philosophy. Although some of these cliques operate well within the confines of specialized interests, for instance, other (alleged) cliques also seem to operate poorly much like certain social cliques operate in high school (or in certain elite corporate cultures and their hiring and promotion decision procedures) in line with cronyism at the professional level.

    The evidence I have for such claims is purely anecdotal and possibly just circumstantial. I wonder how such claims would fair under some amateur statistical analyses of certain journals, though it could be hard if not impossible to collect some of the data required really to inform well the analyses. In any case, I imagine some people will know exactly what I am talking about and that other people will reject claims of the kind sketched above as just plain false.

    Just to be clear, I endorse the (current) editorial policies and manuscript review procedures of the journals “Philosophical Review”, “Mind”, and “Journal of Philosophy”. These policies and procedures appear to keep the identity of manuscript authors completely unknown to anyone involved in making acceptance/rejection/revise and resubmit decisions (literally completely unknown to anyone so involved) at least until the final decisions are made). (I believe that in such cases journal staff who are not involved in the review process play some role in directing submissions to referees (through the editors, of course) who are not in the same department as the manuscript author, for instance and so on, though I am not sure about this.) Other journals may also practice this kind of completely anonymous manuscript review. If readers know of other journals with this practice, or if my short list above is inaccurate, please share your info!

  3. David: Ethics also has a triple-anonymous review process.

    The discussion over at Crooked Timber shows, I fear, that many do not find our arguments convincing… and the empirical claim that single-anonymous review would disadvantage women and minorities is called into question. I’ll hope to find time to delve into the empirical papers today.

  4. Ingrid, I do hope somebody is studying this reluctance to accept the data, as it’s quite remarkable. I recently learned that the top social psychology journals, which have been publishing this research for decades, are still refusing to move to anonymous review– despite extensive lobbying by the very scholars they’ve been publishing!

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