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Effect of open peer review on quality of reviews and on reviewers'recommendations: a randomised trial

BMJ 1999; 318 doi: (Published 02 January 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;318:23
  1. Susan van Rooyen, research assistant (svanrooyen{at},
  2. Fiona Godlee, assistant editora,
  3. Stephen Evans, visiting professor of medical statisticsb,
  4. Nick Black, professor of health services researchb,
  5. Richard Smith, editora
  1. aBMJ Editorial, BMA House, London WC1H 9JR
  2. bLondon School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine,London WC1E 7HT
  1. Correspondence to: Mrs van Rooyen
  • Accepted 30 November 1998


Objectives: To examine the effect on peer review of asking reviewers to have their identity revealed to the authors of the paper.

Design: Randomised trial. Consecutive eligible papers were sent to two reviewers who were randomised to have their identity revealed to the authors or to remain anonymous. Editors and authors were blind to the intervention.

Main outcome measures: The quality of the reviews was independently rated by two editors and the corresponding author using a validated instrument. Additional outcomes were the time taken to complete the review and the recommendation regarding publication. A questionnaire survey was undertaken of the authors of a cohort of manuscripts submitted for publication to find out their views on open peer review.

Results: Two editors' assessments were obtained for 113out of 125manuscripts, and the corresponding author's assessment was obtained for 105.Reviewers randomised to be asked to be identified were 12% (95% confidence interval 0.2% to 24%) more likely to decline to review than reviewers randomised to remain anonymous (35% v 23%). There was no significant difference in quality (scored on a scale of 1to 5) between anonymous reviewers (3.06(SD 0.72)) and identified reviewers (3.09(0.68)) (P=0.68, 95% confidence interval for difference −align=baseline>0.19 to 0.12), and no significant difference in the recommendation regarding publication or time taken to review the paper. The editors' quality score for reviews (3.05(SD 0.70)) was significantly higher than that of authors (2.90(0.87))(P<0.005, 95%confidence interval for difference − align=baseline>0.26 to − align=baseline>0.03). Most authors were in favour of open peer review.

Conclusions: Asking reviewers to consent to being identified to the author had no important effect on the quality of the review, the recommendation regarding publication, or the time taken to review, but it significantly increased the likelihood of reviewers declining to review.


    • Accepted 30 November 1998
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