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Exploring the multifaceted role of identity in peer review

Opinion | Reviewers
Exploring the multifaceted role of identity in peer review

Celebrating Peer Review Week 2021: what does identity and inclusion in peer review really mean?


2021 is the first year where the topic has been selected via a global open survey, and the overall winning topic is identity and diversity in peer review. This week we want to champion what identity in peer review means, and as a publisher look at how we can improve our inclusivity.

What does diversity in peer review mean?

We surveyed 800 randomly selected reviewers who have reviewed at least 1 paper in the last year, and asked them what diversity in peer review meant to them. We received a variety of responses but found they were all focused on several key factors, including:

  • Geography
  • Culture
  • Ethnicity
  • Gender

Diversity in peer review

These areas span a broad spectrum of what identity means. We asked a panel of researchers and reviewers to expand on their thoughts of identity in peer review. Here are some of the responses:

When we spoke to editors, they described the balance of inviting reviewers and getting responses in a timely manner, against ensuring diversity. Tools used by publishers which provide automatic suggestions for appropriate reviewers are not fit for purpose when it comes to representation. 

So how do we ensure that diversity is represented through automated tools?

This isn’t just a publishing issue, but one across the board in many industries. A recent article published by the BBC which looked into gender bias with Facebook advertising has shown that even when Facebook ads were set up to only target UK adults, there was still a gender discrimination being shown through AI-based solutions. There is still much to be done with the targeting tools available to ensure fairness across the board.

What other ways are there to ensure we are reaching out to new and diverse groups of possible  reviewers? At Hindawi, we want to focus on supporting Early Career Researchers of all kinds, and one way we aim to do so is by developing reviewer training and support throughout the process of beginning a reviewer career. 

In ensuring that our reviewer pool is diverse, we also ensure that the review process itself does not become an echo chamber of similar ideas. A more diverse reviewer pool will result in more interesting questions and reflections upon the work submitted, and therefore contribute to improving science.


This blog post is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY). Illustration adapted from Adobe Stock by David Jury.

Article of the Year Award: Outstanding research contributions of 2020, as selected by our Chief Editors. Read the winning articles.