The editors at Nature, an extremely high-profile and well-respected (by some, but that’s another issue) scientific journal, have decided to stick with the current system of single-blind peer review, instead of switching to double-blind review. This means that the people submitting the paper don’t know who their reviewers are, but the reviewers know which lab is submitting the paper and which institution that lab is from. Which, as you can imagine can lead to a whole load of bias, including gender bias, which has been proven through various studies. In fact, Nature admits this, and suggests that, to counter it, the people submitting the paper use only first initials instead of first names on the paper.
This is exactly what I think is wrong with science these days. A lot of terrible research gets published just because it comes from so-and-so’s lab, or from a lab at Harvard/Stanford/UCSF/etc. In a recent journal club, we discussed a paper published from Francis Collins’ lab. Francis Collins is the director of the NIH. As a reviewer (even one who is unknown to Collins’), would you reject his paper? Probably not. The paper was actually fairly decent, but still. The problem exists.
And why won’t Nature implement the double-blind reviewing system? To me, it boils down to laziness. They claim that it’s impossible to make the authors of a paper entirely unknown, and so they are refusing to make even the smallest effort to do so. Wired has a good response to their decision, and I highly agree with most of the points that they make.
And don’t even get me started on the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, where Academy members get to submit two “freebie” papers a year which don’t go through the normal review process.
It’s shit like this that makes me absolutely sure that I want to get out of academic research once I get my Ph.D. Things like this, and the fact that I actually want to have a life outside of science.