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IOP Publishing pledges to implement double-blind peer review

09 Sep 2020 Michael Banks
Journal papers
IOP Publishing aims to implement double-blind peer review on all of its journals by the end of 2021. (Courtesy: Shutterstock/PolyPloiid)

IOP Publishing, which publishes Physics World, has announced it will introduce double-blind peer review on all of its wholly owned journals by the end of 2021. The publisher says the rollout will be phased, with some journals shifting to double blind by the end of 2020, followed by the full portfolio of IOP Publishing-owned journals by the end of 2021.

Journal publishing has traditionally operated using single-blind peer review, in which the reviewers of the paper know who has written the paper, but the authors do not know who has reviewed their paper. Double-blind peer review, on the other hand, is when both the reviewers and authors do not know who each other are.

We believe that double-blind peer review is a significant step in the right direction

Kim Eggleton

IOP publishes 96 journals, around half of which are published jointly with or on behalf of partner societies. Since 2017 the publisher has offered double-blind peer review as an option for authors on two of its journals: Materials Research Express and Biomedical Physics & Engineering Express. After a year, author uptake of the double-blind review option was around 20% on each journal, with many authors being positive about the move, noting it to be fairer than single-blind peer review. Since then three more IOP Publishing journals – New Journal of Physics, Plasma Research Express and Engineering Research Express – have begun offering authors a choice of double-blind peer review, with uptake as high as 35%.

“Impartial evaluation”

IOP Publishing says that the move to apply double blind across all of its wholly owned journals is part of the publisher’s “dedication to tackle the significant gender, racial and geographical under-representation in the scholarly publishing process”. It adds that double-blind peer review “has the potential to reduce bias with respect to gender, race, country of origin or affiliation which should lead to a more equitable system”. Double-blind will be the default option when submitting a paper, but authors have the option to remain under the single-blind model.

“We believe that keeping both the author and the reviewers anonymous will mean the research is judged more fairly, giving authors a better chance of impartial evaluation,” says Kim Eggleton, integrity and inclusion manager at IOP Publishing. “We believe that double-blind peer review is a significant step in the right direction – but it is by no means a panacea. There is a lot more work to be done.”

Indeed, Eggleton adds that publishers have an “influential role” to play in making academia more inclusive. “By doing our best to ensure peer review is objective, we can increase the proportions of under-represented groups that get published,” she adds. “That links to funding, to promotions, to participation on editorial boards – all of which bring about more diverse role models to inspire the next generation of researchers.”

Penny Gowland from the University of Nottingham in the UK, who is an advocate for double-blind, says she is “absolutely delighted” by the move and by IOP Publishing “for listening and leading on this”. She adds that this is a “great day for the integrity of the scientific method and it provides natural justice for all scientists”.

  • IOP Publishing recently carried out a survey to understand what motivates researchers to carry our peer review. You can read the full report here.
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