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Are editors of top-tier journals biased in their decisions by the authors names and affiliations?

Once the editors receive a manuscript for a potential publication, they obviously read the names of the authors and their affiliations. Also, it might be probable that they quickly check some historical records of the authors and some metrics, like number of citations and h-index.

Then, knowing some info about the authors who submitted a certain paper, can the decisions of the editors be influenced by the scholars names and affiliations?

Or is there any regulation, in top-tier journals, that should inhibit such a potential phenomenon?

These doubts come from the observation that some authors are able to continuously publish in top-tier journals, where most of the people struggle to get only one work in a life. Without doubt they are top scientists, but do they get always brilliant ideas? Maybe there is some literature on this topic, that I cannot find.

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    I would say yes to some extent. I think authors' profile matters. It is my observation. Not only editor but also same comment for referees.
    – learner
    Feb 10 at 1:32

2 Answers 2

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There're a lot of studies that indicate that the answer is "yes". Here's a recent example.

Our analysis shows that editors tend to be more likely to invite high-scoring manuscripts for revision or resubmission when the first author is a man from a country with a very high Human Development Index (HDI); first authors who were women or not from very high HDI countries were more likely to be rejected at this stage.

Most journals have no regulations about this kind of bias. There's only one way about this bias, triple blind peer review, and that will take restructuring of a journal's processes.

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    I think this is an answer to a different question. Yes, there is discrimination against women in many (many) parts of academia and discrimination in favor of "first world" countries and their universities. But that wasn't the question asked.
    – Buffy
    Feb 10 at 13:17
  • Thanks a lot @Allure! I read the article..... exactly what I was thinking... So, basically, you can produce an extraordinary scientific result, an astonishing discover, but if you are not a VIP you are just ignored by those journals editors... Also, this paper might explain why many papers on top-tier journals are mediocre...
    – Ommo
    Feb 10 at 18:12
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    @Ommo that's taking it too far. Editors are more likely to invite high-scoring manuscripts from the biased-for group is not the same statement as editors never invite manuscripts from the biased-against group. If you have an extraordinary result but are not a VIP, you an still get published, see e.g. Christian Hennig's answer here: academia.stackexchange.com/a/195879
    – Allure
    Feb 10 at 23:38
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    @Buffy the question asks about discrimination based on author names. Unless there's a suggestion that you can't tell if an author is male or female from their names, I don't see how this answer doesn't answer the question.
    – Allure
    Feb 10 at 23:39
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What "regulations" there are are just the policies of a given journal. I suspect that the policies of any reputable journal would be against this practice and would require that papers from superstars get reviewed like the papers of we mere mortals.

People vary of course, and not everyone follows policy in every instance. But it can also occur that the papers of superstars get more scrutiny than normal, especially when their contributions become somewhat mundane.

It is unlikely, however, that a superstar would get a desk reject and an editor might want such reviews from other superstars, just to protect themselves.

But the world has a lot of variations. In their prime, superstars probably write good papers, but, like anyone, they can also make errors that should be caught or the reputation of the journal will suffer. The reputation of a journal depends more on the quality of the research it publishes than the names of its authors. Special issues highlighting a career might be different.

And also note that if anyone makes large claims in a paper, especially those that challenge accepted wisdom are likely to get extra scrutiny. Superstars are often better positioned to write such papers.

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  • Great answer, thanks a lot!
    – Ommo
    Feb 10 at 18:13

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