Reducing unconscious bias in the review process

Everyone involved in the Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships program can take steps towards reducing unconscious bias in the selection/recruitment, endorsement, and review processes of a Banting application. The following are some tips for reviewers/readers and referees:

  1. Allow sufficient time and avoid multi-tasking when you review applications to allow for self-correction of bias-related tendencies.
  2. Review the selection criteria before you begin evaluating applications.
  3. Question whether your evaluation would change if the applicant were of a different gender or cultural background, if they had a different name or if they were working on a different research topic.
  4. Guard against over-reliance on one piece of information or on “first impression” reactions.
  5. When writing or presenting your review:
    • avoid using stereotypical or interpersonal attributes when describing character and skills (e.g., words such as nice, hardworking, conscientious, dependable, diligent, kind, agreeable, sympathetic, compassionate, selfless, giving, caring, warm, nurturing, maternal);
    • focus on research skills and achievements using words that describe the candidate’s research excellence (e.g., thought-provoking, innovative, novel, thorough, detailed, impactful);
    • consider using, where appropriate, “stand-out” adjectives (e.g., superb, excellent, outstanding, confident, successful, ambitious, knowledgeable, intellectual) for all genders (e.g., women, men, transgender, two-spirit);
    • use the nominee's formal title and last name instead of their first name;
    • avoid attributing the contribution of an applicant's work to the order of authors, as not all disciplines follow a single convention; and
    • consider whether your comment unintentionally includes “doubt raisers” (i.e., negative language, hedges, unexplained comments, faint praise and irrelevancies, such as “might make an excellent leader” versus “is an established leader”).
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