Are reviewers biased against unconventional therapies?

The peer-review process can be seen as a method of quality assessment, so my colleagues and I tested the hypothesis that this method is prone to bias.1 Specifically, our hypothesis was that journal reviewers would be more critical toward a manuscript relating to a study of an unconventional therapy as compared to a study of conventional treatment. Two versions were produced (A and B) of a 'short report' that related to treatments of obesity, identical except for the nature of the interven

Edzard Ernst
Oct 29, 2000

The peer-review process can be seen as a method of quality assessment, so my colleagues and I tested the hypothesis that this method is prone to bias.1 Specifically, our hypothesis was that journal reviewers would be more critical toward a manuscript relating to a study of an unconventional therapy as compared to a study of conventional treatment.

Two versions were produced (A and B) of a 'short report' that related to treatments of obesity, identical except for the nature of the intervention. Version A related to an orthodox treatment, version B to an unconventional treatment. A total of 398 reviewers were recruited via Medline searches and randomized to receive one or the other version for peer review. The primary outcomes were the reviewers' rating of 'importance' on a scale of 1-5 and their verdict regarding rejection or acceptance of the paper. Reviewers were unaware that they were taking part...

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