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Friday, March 8, 2013

Double Blind Review

In deciding what articles to publish most scholarly journals follow a process known as double-blind review. What this means is that if I submit an article to a journal, the journal's editor strips my name from the article before he or she sends it out to other scholars for them to review. After they return their reviews to the editor, he or she then removes their name from their reviews before sending them on to be. In other words, reviewers don't know who writes the articles they review, and I don't know who reviews my articles. Hence the term, double-blind review.

The idea lying behind this approach, of course, is that it allows reviewers to be more honest in their reviews. They don't have to worry that if they critically review an article written by a prominent scholar, they won't face retribution some time in the future. This is a reasonable concern, and the double-blind system is probably the best system available, but it does yield some ironic reviews from time-to-time.

For example, when Mark Granovetter submitted his first submitted his article, "The Strength of Weak Ties," one reviewer commented that it wasn't worthy of being published in a third-tier journal. Mark almost didn't resubmit it. Good thing he did, though. It is now one of the most highly cited articles of all time and has been featured in books such as Malcolm Gladwell's "The Tipping Point" and Albert-László Barabási's "Linked."

Recently, two of my colleagues and I received a review for an article we submitted a couple of months ago. We used a theoretical approach known as "institutional logics" to explore the venture capital industry, and one of the reviewers suggested that we didn't know what we were talking about, that we needed to read a particular book on institutional logics. The irony is that one of the colleagues who wrote the paper with me was a co-author of that book. Go figure.

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