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April 1999

Reviewers, Authors, and Editors: Balance of Power

Arch Ophthalmol. 1999;117(4):524-526. doi:10.1001/archopht.117.4.524


Effect on the Quality of Peer Review of Blinding Reviewers and Asking Them to Sign Their Reports: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Fiona Godlee, BSc, MRCP; Catharine R. Gale, BSc; Christopher N. Martyn, DPhil, FRCP

  Context.—Anxiety about bias, lack of accountability, and poor quality of peer review has led to questions about the imbalance in anonymity between reviewers and authors.Objective.—To evaluate the effect on the quality of peer review of blinding reviewers to the authors' identities and requiring reviewers to sign their reports.Design.—Randomized controlled trial.Setting.—A general medical journal.Participants.—A total of 420 reviewers from the journal's database.Intervention.—We modified a paper accepted for publication introducing 8 areas of weakness. Reviewers were randomly allocated to 5 groups. Groups 1 and 2 received manuscripts from which the authors' names and affiliations had been removed, while groups 3 and 4 were aware of the authors' identities. Groups 1 and 3 were asked to sign their reports, while groups 2 and 4 were asked to return their reports unsigned. The fifth group was sent the paper in the usual manner of the journal, with authors' identities revealed and a request to comment anonymously. Group 5 differed from group 4 only in that its members were unaware that they were taking part in a study.Main Outcome Measure.—The number of weaknesses in the paper that were commented on by the reviewers.Results.—Reports were received from 221 reviewers (53%). The mean number of weaknesses commented on was 2 (1.7, 2.1, 1.8, and 1.9 for groups 1, 2, 3, and 4 and 5 combined, respectively). There were no statistically significant differences between groups in their performance. Reviewers who were blinded to authors' identities were less likely to recommend rejection than those who were aware of the authors' identities (odds ratio, 0.5; 95% confidence interval, 0.3-1.0).Conclusions.—Neither blinding reviewers to the authors and origin of the paper nor requiring them to sign their reports had any effect on rate of detection of errors. Such measures are unlikely to improve the quality of peer review reports.




What Are the Factors Determining Authorship and the Order of the Authors' Names? A Study Among Authors of the Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Geneeskunde (Dutch Journal of Medicine)

Wendela P. Hoen, MD; Henk C. Walvoort, DVM, PhD; A. John P. M. Overbeke, MD, PhD

  Context.—Although criteria justifying authorship of scientific medical articles have been formulated, it is not well known how authorship is established in practice.Objectives.—To assess the criteria for authorship used by authors of original articles in Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Geneeskunde (NTVG, the Dutch Journal of Medicine), and to determine whether the criteria for authorship of the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) are known and applied.Design.—Survey questionnaire.Setting.—Editorial office of the NTVG.Participants.—All 450 authors of 115 original articles published in 1995.Main Outcome Measures.—Author's contribution to study design, material, collection of data, statistics, and writing.Results.—Of 362 forms returned, 352 could be analyzed (78.2% response rate). The 5 questions most frequently answered affirmatively were ICMJE criteria: critical reading (86.1% of the authors), approval of the final version (84.7%), study design (74.7%), study conception (64.2%), and revision (63.4%). Authors rated their contribution 2 points higher than did their coauthors. Interestingly, 64% of the respondents met the ICMJE criteria, although 60% of the respondents did not know them.Conclusion.—Authorship was mostly in accordance with ICMJE criteria although many authors were not familiar with them.