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Policy on Double-Blind Reviewing


Approved November 29, 2006
After an exhaustive (and exhausting!) two-month discussion to characterize the benefits and costs of double-blind review (DBR) and to design an effective double-blind reviewing procedure, the Editorial Board was asked for its recommendation. Roughly a third favored retaining single-blind reviewing (SBR), roughly a third recommended moving to DBR, and roughly a third were comfortable with either SBR or DBR.

These recommendations can be viewed in at least three ways.

  • The editorial board (EB) favors SBR: a majority recommended SBR or were comfortable with SBR and a significant minority recommended against DBR.
  • The EB favors DBR: a majority recommended DBR or were comfortable with DBR and a significant minority recommended against SBR.
  • There is no true consensus: a significant minority recommended against SBR and a significant minority recommended against DBR.

Editor-in-Chief Rick Snodgrass considered these recommendations, along with the scientific literature, the informal vote at the SIGMOD'06 business meeting, and the feedback he had received via private email. His considerations are documented in his Editorial. He decided based on all of this information that TODS would adopt DBR.

The following is now TODS policy.

  • TODS reaffirms the general ACM policy that "the quality of a refereed publication rests primarily on the impartial judgment of their volunteer reviewers."
  • TODS will continue to strive to ensure fairness in reviewing, even if that involves more work for the TODS editorial board.
  • Scientific studies have demonstrated opportunities for bias inherent in single-blind reviewing.
  • It is TODS policy that every submission should be judged on its own merits. The identity and affiliation of the authors should not influence, either positively or negatively, the evaluation of submissions to TODS.
  • In consideration of the above, TODS will utilize double-blind reviewing.
  • TODS will continue to strive to make the submission process for authors as simple as possible.
  • TODS will continue to strive to effect a comprehensive review of each submission.

The central and unambiguous message is that every submission should be judged solely on its own merits. The other important message is that TODS so values fairness that it is willing to undertake additional effort by AEs to make the process more fair.

The procedure that will be followed can be summarized as follows. Part of the procedure are instructions to authors and to reviewers, found in an appendix in the accompanying Editorial.

 

PROCEDURE
 

  • Applicability

    All submissions to TODS must be masked by the author(s), following the simple instructions given in the author guidelines.

  • Submitting a Manuscript

    TODS, as with most ACM journals and transactions, uses ScholarOne's web-based ManuscriptCentral manuscript tracking system to automate submission and reviewing. The manuscript will be submitted normally. The EiC will examine the manuscript to ensure that it has been properly blinded. The cover letter and other correspondence from the author(s) will be marked in ManuscriptCentral (MC) by the EiC as not to be revealed to the reviewers. The handling AE will have full access to these materials. As mentioned in the author guidelines, the cover letter should contain the full details of each anonymous citation as well as a list of people who constitute a conflict of interest.

  • Reviewing

    The identity of the authors will be visible to the EiC and Associate Editor; this meta-data will not be revealed by MC to the reviewers. Templates of email to be sent to reviewers will be modified to eliminate identifying information.

    Reviewers should direct questions about a paper referenced by an anonymous citation within the manuscript (say, arising from a consideration of the TODS novelty requirement) to the AE, who would then provide the cited paper (or equivalently, a full citation) to the reviewer.

    In cases where an AE has an intransigent referee who does not respond, the AE sometimes just does the review him/herself, as permitted in the AE manual. While this is strictly speaking a violation of DBR, the AE will continue to have this option available.

  • Assessing the Disclosure and Novelty Requirements

    TODS has specific guidelines for disclosing related work by the author(s) of the submitted paper and for what represents adequate contribution over existing published work.

    The procedures listed above allow the disclosure and novelty requirements to be checked. It is completely up to the AE to decide which reviewers should be told about an anonymous citation.

  • On Revision

    The author guidelines includes a section on anonymity in revisions.

  • Acceptance

    As the AE is considering whether to accept the manuscript for publication, they will consider the novelty requirements, which for double-blinded reviews necessarily involve anonymous citations, which as noted above must be fully documented in the cover letter.

    If and when the manuscript is accepted for publication, the author will prepare a non-anonymized version. The AE will at that time make a final check to ensure that the TODS disclosure requirements are met.

  • Transition

    It is important to educate the community as to the benefits and costs of DBR. It is also important to publicize and promulgate policy changes widely, before those changes go into effect. Finally, it is critical to ensure that ManuscriptCentral is handling things correctly before adopting such policy changes.

    This new procedure will go into effect on Thursday, February 1, 2007. This will give authors several months to learn about this new policy and for the community to read about the context and the motivation for this decision.

    A detailed analysis of the scientific literature regarding blind reviewing, a comparison of costs and benefits, a proposal for a double-blind reviewing procedure, a general discussion of relevant questions, and author and reviewer guidelines can be found in Rick's editorial.

    The following tasks are required to implement DBR.

    • Rick will write up a discussion of the issues and his decision. This will be made available when the decision is announced.
    • Rick will work with ScholarOne to configure MC. This will involve removing the identity of the authors and their affiliations from the templates of emails sent to reviewers and removing this information from the Referee Center.
    • Rick will update the author and reviewer instructions on the web and in email templates to explain their roles, respectively, in DBR.
    • Rick will update the Editor Manual to include the changes in the process.
 
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