Confidentiality: which level is right?
Single blind, Double blind or open?
When it comes to choosing the reviewer confidentiality for your journal, there are typically three options: Single Blind, Double Blind and Open. A short description of the pros and cons of each follows:
In a “Single blind” process, the reviewers’ identities are kept anonymous.
Reviewers, are able to critique a manuscript objectively without any external influence or pressure. At times when there might be more of a need for constructive criticism, a single-blind review safeguards reviewers from the prospect of conflict with the author by keeping them anonymous.
While Single blind is the most commonly used confidentiality agreement in peer review, there are possible drawbacks of making the author’s identity known, such as:
- reviewer bias, where there may be some antagonism between reviewer or author
- academic or professional competition.
- in a study carried out by the Publishing Research Consortium, only 52% of researchers surveyed would label Single blind reviewing as “effective.”1
In Double blind process, authors and reviewers are anonymous to each other.
Double blind confidentiality can be used for its neutrality where there could be a conflict of interest or an academic or professional competition. One of the advantages of a Double blind process is the academic objectivity it insures despite, for example, the author’s stature in a particular research community. In a survey of 3,000 academics, 71% said they have confidence in the double blind peer review process.2 This fact alone is a positive.
Yet there are still some downsides…
- Though Double blind review is intended as a measure of bias prevention, one should consider that in specialised research areas, a reviewer might still be able to make an educated guess about the author’s identity.
- In order ensure the double-blind process, a manuscript would have to have all references to the author and his/her related work removed, which could take away from the overall impact of the research presented.
Reviewers are given the identity of the authors and reviewers are encouraged to sign their evaluations.
Authors often feel their manuscript has been given a fair consideration when done by open review, simply because identities of the reviewers are known. If authors feel they have been treated fairly, they are also more likely to submit future manuscripts. In addition, with open review, reviewers tend to be inclined to focus on the positive aspects of the work and spend more time improving the manuscript. The review process is usually more thorough and therefore valuable to the authors, the journal and the academic community. Some journals even now publish the reviewers’ names together with the manuscript as recognition of the value of the reviewers’ contribution.
- Open reviewing is used rarely in academic journals as it is considered that anonymised reviewing will protect reviewers from hostile author reactions if negative reviews are presented while open reviewing will not.