APS News

Letters to the Editor

Double-Blind Review

In the article “Is Double-Blind Review Better?” (APS News, July 2015) Shannon Palus states that the only physics journal she knows of that allows authors to remove all self-identifying materials from their manuscripts is Nature Physics. However, one of the two flagship journals of the American Association of Physics Teachers, namely The Physics Teacher, requires it of all authors. I believe their reason for doing so is to ensure that all articles stand on the strength of their potential value in contributing to physics education, even if the authors are first-time contributors with no academic affiliation and live in some obscure international location.

I think we physicists have all heard of (or even been involved in) cases where games have been played with names and affiliations of authors on a manuscript for the sole purpose of impressing potential referees. (If Joe Superstar from Big-Name University is on a paper, referees may be more likely to be favorably disposed toward it before even reading it.)

If a journal is going to try double-blind, it should not be an option. Otherwise as a referee I can’t help wondering if the authors have something to hide by choosing that option. It should be required of all submissions, at least on a trial basis for a select number of issues, to see if it changes the acceptance statistics. It is true that some authors will still be recognized (as I can report happens when I review for The Physics Teacher). That is no more an argument against blinding their authorship than the fact some referees will be recognized is an argument against blinding their identities. A system may be imperfect but still better than the alternatives.

Carl E. Mungan
Annapolis, Maryland

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