Big name researchers at prestigious universities are less likely to submit their work for double-blind peer review than authors toiling away at less well-known institutions, according to an analysis of submissions to Nature journals.

Research conducted by Barbara McGillivray from the University of Cambridge and Elisa De Ranieri from publisher Springer Nature, both in the UK, found that authors were more likely to opt for double-blind peer review when affiliated with less prestigious institutions, from Asian countries or submitting to high-impact journals. The analysis of over 120,000 manuscripts received by 25 Nature journals over a two-year period also showed that choosing double-blind peer review resulted in a significantly higher likelihood of a paper being rejected. No difference in uptake of double-blind peer review was detected for author gender.

Double-blind peer review has been proposed as a solution to counteract biases that reviewers may have about papers from certain countries or institutions. The study’s results hint that this fear may be why researchers from less well-known institutions opt for double-blind peer review.

By contrast, top research groups and western countries, including the UK, have a stronger preference for single-blind peer review which allows reviewers to see authors’ names and affiliations. One key limitation of the study, noted by the authors, was that manuscript quality was not assessed.