Here’s a question I’ve heard a few times: why don’t we at NN, or any of the Nature journals, strip the author names off a manuscript before sending it out to peer review? This process, where not only the referees remain anonymous to the authors, but where also the authors might remain anonymous to the referees, is termed “double-blind peer review”, and is practiced by some specialized biomedical journals. Recently, a group of young scientists published a plea to adopt “DBPR”. A 1990 study published in JAMA concluded that DBPR improved the outcome of peer review; nevertheless JAMA itself has not adopted DBPR.
When confronted with the question, I tend to reply that DBPR simply wouldn’t work for NN, because most reviewers would find it easy to guess the authors of a manuscript before them. After all, before you submit a paper to us, you have typically already presented a good part of the data to the community in the form of meeting posters, invited talks, etc. Also, authors tend to extensively cite their own previous work… My dialogue partners usually agree with these arguments, but still – DBPR would be easy to implement, so why not go ahead, even if it “worked” only some of the time?
Good question… I’d be very interested in hearing your opinions on this subject!