Paul L. Caron

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Letterhead Bias and Blind Review: An Analysis of Prevalence and Mitigation Efforts

Michael Conklin (Angelo State; Google Scholar), Letterhead Bias and Blind Review: An Analysis of Prevalence and Mitigation Efforts, 2021 U. Ill. L. Rev. Online__ (2022):

Claims regarding letterhead bias in legal academia have been limited to anecdotes and hyperbolic assertions such as how โ€œ[s]omebody from a top 5 school could bluebook a ham sandwich and get it published in a top 10 journal.โ€ This Article reports the findings of a first-of-its-kind study designed to measure the effects of letterhead bias on legal scholarship. As the first quantitative analysis into the subject, this research illuminates the prevalence of letterhead bias and the effectiveness of blind review in combating it. Furthermore, the methodology allows for analysis of how blind review affects the often-criticized practice of self-publishing.

The methodological limitations of this study do not allow for the ultimate determination to be made as to how blind review affects letterhead bias. Regardless, the results of this study provide the first-ever empirical data on the subject. The results support the notion that letterhead bias is not a significant problem in legal academia and that blind review does not significantly affect publication decisions. However, this research only provides a singular data point that must be considered in light of the contrasting evidence that letterhead bias does exist. 

The results of this study call for replication in future research. In the event more law journals implement blind review, a replication study would allow for more data to be analyzed and more confidence in the conclusion. Even if blind journals stay limited to the five from this study, a replication study done at least two years from now would effectively double the sample size of the present study, thus allowing for more confidence in the results. Additionally, a future study implementing a similar methodology could analyze the potentiality for gender discrimination as a consequence of non-blind article review.

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