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Bias in the Peer-Review Buddy System?

Nature's The Great Beyond asks: "Who needs friends when you've got peer reviewers?" Blogger Ewen Callaway dissects a PLoS One paper that appeared online this week, in which researchers analyze whether open peer review systems discourage biases, such as those that often surface when authors request specific reviewers for their manuscripts. Researchers at the Max Planck Society in Munich, Germany, and the University of Zurich in Switzerland looked at Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics' semi-open peer review system and found that signs of bias accompanied "access to reviews and information about who wrote them," Callaway reports, adding that "on papers where there was disagreement among ... reviewers, those recommended by the author were more likely to provide favorable feedback and accept a paper than the editor-recommended reviewer." Study co-author Lutz Bormann tells Nature that "the danger is really that an author suggested their best friends," although on the flip-side, author-suggested reviewers may be experts in the field, and therefore a better fit to critique the paper.

The Scan

Positive Framing of Genetic Studies Can Spark Mistrust Among Underrepresented Groups

Researchers in Human Genetics and Genomics Advances report that how researchers describe genomic studies may alienate potential participants.

Small Study of Gene Editing to Treat Sickle Cell Disease

In a Novartis-sponsored study in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that a CRISPR-Cas9-based treatment targeting promoters of genes encoding fetal hemoglobin could reduce disease symptoms.

Gut Microbiome Changes Appear in Infants Before They Develop Eczema, Study Finds

Researchers report in mSystems that infants experienced an enrichment in Clostridium sensu stricto 1 and Finegoldia and a depletion of Bacteroides before developing eczema.

Acute Myeloid Leukemia Treatment Specificity Enhanced With Stem Cell Editing

A study in Nature suggests epitope editing in donor stem cells prior to bone marrow transplants can stave off toxicity when targeting acute myeloid leukemia with immunotherapy.