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The reviewer in the mirror: examining gendered and ethnicized notions of reciprocity in peer review


Numerous studies have sought to uncover violations of objectivity and impartiality in peer review; however the notion of reciprocity has been absent in much of this discussion, particularly as it relates to gendered and ethnicized behaviors of peer review. The current study addresses this gap in research by investigating patterns of reciprocity (i.e., correspondences between patterns of recommendations received by authors and patterns of recommendations given by reviewers in the same social group) by perceived gender and ethnicity of reviewers and authors for submissions to the Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology from June 2009 to May 2011. The degree of reciprocity for each social group was examined by employing Monte Carlo resampling to extrapolate more robust patterns from the limited data available. We found that papers with female authors received more negative reviews than reviews for male authors. Reciprocity was suggested by the fact that female reviewers gave lower reviews than male reviewers. Reciprocity was also exhibited by ethnicity, although non-Western reviewers gave disproportionately more recommendations of major revision, while non-Western authors tended to receive more outright rejections. This study provides a novel theoretical and methodological basis for future studies on reciprocity in peer review.

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The authors would like to thank JASIST Editor-in-Chief Blaise Cronin and Meghann Knowles (JASIST Editorial Office) for generously providing access to the data used in this study.

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Correspondence to Bradford Demarest.

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Demarest, B., Freeman, G. & Sugimoto, C.R. The reviewer in the mirror: examining gendered and ethnicized notions of reciprocity in peer review. Scientometrics 101, 717–735 (2014).

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  • Reciprocity
  • Peer review
  • Scholarly communication
  • Monte Carlo resampling

Mathematics subject classification

  • C150 (Statistical Simulation Methods: General)

JEL classification

  • 62F40 (Bootstrap, jackknife and other resampling methods)