Implicit bias in peer review

We all have implicit biases based on our background and experiences. They can cause us to take shortcuts in decision making which can serve us well and save us time, but often they are wrong and end in unfair assessments.

During the peer review process the following biases can influence how you assess a paper and what conclusion you come to:

  • Gender bias
  • Bias for or against authors from a geographical area
  • Language bias, if a paper is translated poorly
  • Bias for or against authors from specific institutions

We can all address our implicit biases through self-awareness. You can minimise the influence of your implicit biases during the peer review process:

  • Be aware that you have implicit biases that may affect your decision making”
  • Treat the paper as if you did not know the authors’ names and institutions
  • Focus on facts rather than feelings
  • Slow down your decision making
  • Consider and reconsider the reasons for your conclusions.

We highly recommend the Publons Academy for any reviewers keen to improve their skills. This is a free and practical peer review training course for early career researchers, which has a specific module related to author and reviewer biases, conflicts of interest and misconduct.