Daniel Lemire's blog

, 2 min read

Science and Technology links (December 22nd 2018)

  1. For equity reasons, many people advocate for double-blind peer review, meaning that the author does not know who the reviewer is, nor does the reviewer know who the author is. It is believed (despite little hard positive evidence and some contrary evidence) that this is surely benefificial to female authors and minorities. Cox and Montgomerie find that:

These analyses suggest that double-blind review does not currently increase the incidence of female authorship in the journals studied here. We conclude, at least for these journals, that double-blind review does not benefit female authors and may, in the long run, be detrimental.

Why do they say it may be detrimental?

Firstly, making everything anonymous is hard work. And ressources are finite: we are already struggling to find time and people to review manuscripts… adding to the burden has a cost. Thus we must ensure that there are comparable benefits. You shouldn’t think for a minute that making science harder and more expensive is going to necessarily benefit women and minorities. Raising the costs usually works against inclusion.

Secondly, they observe empirically that publications by women are less likely to appear in double-blind-review journals than in conventional journals. Why is that? If double-blind reviews are obviously beneficial to women, they would flock the double-blind journals… but they do not. Either women are misguided or else, more likely, double-blind reviews do not favor women.

And, finally, there may be substantial benefits to the authors and the community in the reviewers knowing who they are. It is simply a fact that the identity of the authors is an important factor when assessing a piece of scientific work. Ultimately, we tend to reward sustained high quality work with more credibility. You want authors to have skin in the game: if their work is bad, then they should pay a price (more scrutiny of their work in the future) and when their work is consistently good, they should be rewarded (given more implicit trust).

  1. The price of lithium-ion batteries has fallen by 73% between 2010 and 2016. (Source: Bloomberg) However, it does not mean that these batteries are getting better at a similar rate: it seems that even though the price is falling, the physical quality of the batteries remains similar.
  2. Scientists have created viable human hair follicles from cultured human cells. (Source: Nature)
  3. There is interest in NAD supplements for anti-aging purposes. Xie et al. (2018) show cognitive benefits due to NAD supplements in old mice.
  4. Bernstein et al. (2018) point out that continuous and sustained social interactions reduce individual exploration. In other words, to be highly original, you do need to close your door and stop answering emails and phone calls for a time.