Nature Chemistry | The Sceptical Chymist

A blind date for peer review

When we ask a potential reviewer if they would be willing to referee a paper for Nature Chemistry, we tell them the title of the paper, who the authors are, and also send along the abstract to help them decide if it is really a paper that they are qualified to referee. If the person agrees to review for us, the manuscript that they have access to includes the names, affiliations and contributions of all of the authors.

Starting in February (the exact date is yet to be confirmed), we will offer authors the option of ‘blinding’ their submitted manuscripts; that is, removing their names and affiliations from the manuscript and supplementary information files such that — if the manuscript is selected for external review — the reviewers will not know who the authors of the paper are, or where they come from. Obviously this means that when we ask someone if they are willing to review for us, they will not be told who the authors are at that stage either (they will only be given the title and abstract of the paper).

It is entirely up to the authors of each paper whether they wish to choose this double-blind option or stick with the single-blind process that we, and many other chemistry journals, use now. Closer to the time when the double-blind option becomes available, we will post instructions on how authors should prepare their manuscripts should they wish them to be evaluated in this way. It’s not just a simple matter of deleting the author list from the start of the manuscript file (don’t forget to check the ‘document properties’ hidden in the depths of a Word menu…).

Some other Nature-branded journals already have double-blind peer review as an option: Nature Geoscience and Nature Climate Change started offering it in the middle of 2013, and Nature Nanotechnology joined the club in late 2014. If you want to find out more, all of those journals have written about the topic of double-blind peer review:

Double-blind peer review (Nature Geoscience Editorial, 2013)
Blind faith (Nature Climate Change Editorial, 2013)
Peer-review variations (Nature Geoscience Editorial, 2014)
Double-blind peer review (Nature Nanotechnology Editorial, 2014)
Double-blind under review (ReadCube link) (Nature Nanotechnology Thesis article by Alastair Brown, 2014)

So, is double-blind peer review for you?


  1. Report this comment

    John Spevacek said:

    I’ll be curious as to how this works out. I have a couple of thoughts based on my experiences as a reviewer:

    1) One time I had to trash a paper that had a highly respected researcher as the last author (and “trash” is the correct word – it was awful due to logical inconsistencies, even though the data was presented extremely well). That was pretty scary, as I double-/triple-checked myself to make sure that I was right. Had I not known who the author was, I would not have doubted myself like that. So is that a good thing or bad? Was the author expecting an easy pass because of his name?

    2) It will be pretty easy to guess who the researchers are when the article is entitled: “Synthesis of __________, Part III”. (Who did parts I and II?) And similarly for articles with a very small field of researchers.

    That said, if you were to pass a paper my way for review (hint, hint) and it was blind, I would likely spend very little time trying to guess the researcher’s identity. I have plenty of better things to do with my limited time.

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    Michelle Francl said:

    I’ve been blind reviewing for social science and humanities journals for several years now. At the beginning I wondered it would help me evaluate the work if I knew the credentials of those writing, but in the end, never found it necessary to send something to the editor with a note saying if this person an ‘authority’ then OK, but otherwise, no. And that is as it should be, I think.