An analysis of studies published in 145 journals from various research fields , including approximately 1.7 million authors and 740,000 reviewers, found no evidence of bias against female authors in the peer review process.
Academic journals are often blamed for a gender gap in publication rates, but it is unclear whether peer review and editorial processes contribute to this.
A tangle of biases
In the cited study, they focused on analyzing three possible sources of bias:
- The editorial selection of the reviewers
- Reviewers’ Recommendations
- Editorial decisions
The results showed that studies written by women as single or co-authors were treated even more favorably by reviewers and editors . Although there were some differences between research fields, the findings suggest that peer review and editorial processes do not penalize articles written by women.
However, as has been said, there are great differences between fields. And even when the review is double-blind, the reviewers may know or guess who the authors are, or a gender bias may arise because the editor knows who the authors are . True double blindness is difficult due to the difficulty in concealing the identities of the main authors (revealed by style, perspective, and citations).
For example, women’s studies generally received the worst reviews in social science journals using single-blind peer review, but these journals are in the minority in a field typically dominated by double-blind peer review .
Increasing gender diversity in editorial teams and review groups could help journals inform potential authors of their attention to these factors and thus encourage female participation. However, we are faced with a complex tangle of biases , and tackling some could be hiding others from us, and vice versa: