Reducing bias in the review process

Everyone involved in the Vanier CGS program can take steps towards reducing unconscious bias in the nomination and review processes. The following are some tips for reviewers 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 adjectives when describing character and skills, especially when providing a letter for a woman (e.g., avoid words such as nice, hardworking, conscientious, dependable, diligent, kind, agreeable, sympathetic, compassionate, selfless, giving, caring, warm, nurturing, maternal, etc.);
    • 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 surname 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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