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Peer review perpetuates barriers for historically excluded groups

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posted on 2023-03-14, 07:01 authored by Olivia Smith, Kayla L. Davis, Riley B. Pizza, Robin Waterman, Kara C. Dobson, Brianna Foster, Julie JarveyJulie Jarvey, Leonard N. Jones, Wendy Leuenberger, nan nourn, Emily E. Conway, Cynthia M. Fiser, Zoe A. Hansen, Ani Hristova, Caitlin Mack, Alyssa N. Saunders, Olivia J. Utley, Moriah L. Young, Courtney L. Davis
Peer review is central to the scientific process and scientists’ career advancement, but bias at various stages of the review process disadvantages some authors. Here we use peer review data from 312,740 biological sciences manuscripts across 31 studies to (1) examine evidence for differential peer review outcomes based on author demographics; (2) evaluate the efficacy of solutions to reduce bias; and (3) describe the current landscape of peer review policies for 541 ecology and evolution journals. We found notably worse review outcomes (e.g., lower overall acceptance rates) for authors whose institutional affiliations were in Asia, whose country’s primary language is not English, and in countries with relatively low Human Development Indices. We found few data evaluating efficacy of interventions outside of reducing gender bias through double-blind review or diversifying reviewer/editorial boards. Despite evidence for review outcome gaps based on author demographics, few journals currently implement policies intended to mitigate bias (e.g., 15.9% of journals practiced double-blind review and 2.03% had reviewer guidelines that mentioned social justice issues). The lack of demographic equity signals an urgent need to better understand and implement evidence-based bias mitigation strategies.


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