Assessment of Author Demand for Double-blind Peer Review in IOP (Institute of Physics) Publishing Journals

Simon Harris,1 Marc Gillett,1 Pernille Hammelsoe,1 Tim Smith1

Objective The main objective of this study is to generate market intelligence on author demand for double-blind peer review (DBPR) in areas of study where single-blind review is the norm, namely, materials science and biomedical physics and/or engineering. In addition to assessing authors’ perception of the double-blind model and their satisfaction with the process, the pilot study will also collect data to compare operational aspects of the peer-review process between the single-blind and double-blind models.

Design Alternative submission and peer review sites have been set up for the journals Materials Research Express (MRX) and Biomedical Physics & Engineering Express (BPEX). Authors are able to choose between submitting an article for double-blind or single-blind review. Authors are responsible for anonymizing their manuscript before submitting it for DBPR. The pilot scheme runs for 1 year, from January 2017 to December 2017. A full analysis of data will take place after 6 months, and the final analysis will take place after 12 months. The percentage of the total of direct submissions to each journal that are submitted for DBPR will be measured and reported. This uptake figure is the primary measure of this study, and prior to the study a significant uptake threshold was set at 10% for MRX and 20% for BPEX. Surveys to submitting authors at the final decision stage measure satisfaction levels with the DBPR process and will be compared with single-blind author satisfaction levels. Double-blind authors are also asked why they chose DBPR rather than single-blind peer review.

Results Initial data from January 2017 to May 2017 show that 20% of direct submissions to MRX were double blind (137 of 677 direct submissions), and BPEX shows a similar uptake (9 of 46 submissions). Peer-review times are slightly shorter for DBPR than for SBPR. Eight authors who chose DBPR have responded to the survey, and 7 of them stated that they chose DBPR because they think it is the most fair. The average satisfaction level with the DBPR experience is 8.5 out of a 10-point scale.

Conclusions These initial results suggest that there is a significant demand from authors for DBPR in these communities. If anything, we feel that this study will underestimate the demand given that DBPR is voluntary and most authors submitting to these journals are not normally in the habit of anonymizing their manuscripts. Further conclusions will be drawn based on the 6-month results in July 2017, in time for the Peer Review Congress in September.

1IOP Publishing, Bristol, UK, simon.harris@iop.org

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: All authors are full-time employees of IOP Publishing. No other conflicts were reported.

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