Taiwan’s science ministry is thinking of introducing double-blind peer review to assess research-grant proposals, a trend being adopted by some journals to eliminate bias.
The Ministry of Science and Technology says it has begun soliciting feedback from scientists about whether it should bring in such a system.
Currently grant proposals include the name of the applicant, but the reviewers remain anonymous — a method known as single-blind review, which is used by many funding agencies. In a double-blind system, the identities of both the applicant and the reviewers are redacted, in an attempt to eliminate personal bias and conflicts of interest. Some journals, including Nature and Conservation Biology, have policies that allow authors to request that their names are withheld from reviewers. (Nature’s news team is editorially independent of its journal team.)
Mark Burgman, an ecologist at Imperial College London and editor-in-chief of Conservation Biology, says he is not aware of any funding agencies that use double-blind review, but he thinks it is a good idea. Although he does not have data on whether double-blind reviews of papers at his journal are fairer than single-blind reviews, he says authors perceive them to be so. “My sense is that it creates a fairer system, especially for younger researchers,” says Burgman.
But Chang Tien-Hsien, director of the Program for Promotion of Research Integrity at Academia Sinica in Taipei, thinks it will be difficult to anonymize grant applications. Authors often cite their own preliminary data or previous studies in their proposals, which would allow senior reviewers familiar with the field to guess who they are, says Chang. “It is almost impossible to completely hide the author’s identity,” he says.
A spokesperson for Taiwan's science ministry declined to give an end date for its survey of scientists’ feedback.