Funding sources Departmental Funds, Department of Dermatology, Section of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery, Northwestern University.
CLINICAL AND LABORATORY INVESTIGATIONS
Blinded vs. unblinded peer review of manuscripts submitted to a dermatology journal: a randomized multi-rater study
Article first published online: 28 AUG 2011
© 2011 The Authors. BJD © 2011 British Association of Dermatologists
British Journal of Dermatology
Volume 165, Issue 3, pages 563–567, September 2011
How to Cite
Alam, M., Kim, N.A., Havey, J., Rademaker, A., Ratner, D., Tregre, B., West, D.P. and Coleman III, W.P. (2011), Blinded vs. unblinded peer review of manuscripts submitted to a dermatology journal: a randomized multi-rater study. British Journal of Dermatology, 165: 563–567. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2133.2011.10432.x
Conflicts of interest The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose. Neither Northwestern University nor any of the investigators or study personnel received or expect to receive compensation, supplies, equipment or any other inducements, directly or indirectly, from the manufacturers or distributors of any of the study agents.
- Issue published online: 28 AUG 2011
- Article first published online: 28 AUG 2011
- Accepted manuscript online: 28 MAY 2011 10:24AM EST
- Accepted for publication11 May 2011
Background Submissions to medical and scientific journals are vetted by peer review, but peer review itself has been poorly studied until recently. One concern has been that manuscript reviews in which the reviewer is unblinded (e.g. knows author identity) may be biased, with an increased likelihood that the evaluation will not be strictly on scientific merits.
Objectives The purpose of this study was to compare the outcomes of blinded and unblinded reviews of manuscripts submitted to a single dermatology journal via a randomized multi-rater study.
Materials and methods Forty manuscripts submitted to the journal Dermatologic Surgery were assessed by four reviewers, two of whom were randomly selected to be blinded and two unblinded regarding the identities of the manuscripts’ authors. The primary outcome measure was the initial score assigned to each manuscript by each reviewer characterized on an ordinal scale of 1–3, with 1 = accept; 2 = revise (i.e. minor or major revisions) and 3 = reject. Subgroup analysis compared the primary outcome measure across manuscripts from U.S. corresponding authors and foreign corresponding authors. The secondary outcome measure was word count of the narrative portion (i.e. comments to editor and comments to authors) of the reviewer forms.
Results There was no significant difference between the scores given to manuscripts by unblinded reviewers and blinded reviewers, both for manuscripts from the U.S. and for foreign submissions. There was also no difference in word count between unblinded and blinded reviews.
Conclusions It seems, at least in the case of one dermatology journal, that blinding during peer review does not appear to affect the disposition of the manuscript. To the extent that review word count is a proxy for review quality, there appears to be no quality difference associated with blinding.