Reducing unconscious 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 had a different name.
  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 'stand-out' adjectives (e.g., superb, excellent, outstanding, confident, successful, ambitious, knowledgeable, intellectual) for both men and women, where appropriate;
    • 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;
    • 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”).
Date modified: