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Is open peer review the fairest system? No

BMJ 2010; 341 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.c6425 (Published 16 November 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c6425
  1. Karim Khan, editor
  1. 1British Journal of Sports Medicine, London, UK
  1. karim.khan{at}familymed.ubc.ca

Trish Groves (doi:10.1136/bmj.c6424) argues that telling authors who has reviewed their paper has helped to make the process fairer, but Karim Khan is concerned that it stops reviewers from being completely frank

Open peer review makes perfect sense in the ideal world. But it is not an ideal world. As editor of a BMJ Group specialist journal, I am concerned that open review provides more scope for power relationships to favour “the great and the good.”

Anonymity creates a safe place

Open peer review is associated with the risk that an inferior paper written by a senior authority in the field may receive a “soft” or generous review from a junior reviewer who either seeks to curry favour or fears an honest review would lead to payback at some future time.1 2 Van Rooyen and colleagues’ classic randomised controlled trial found a 5% greater positive recommendation among identified reviewers (open) than among anonymous reviewers (closed). Although that difference seems unremarkable, the authors of that study, undertaken at …

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