The English Superior Courts are a very collegiate institution. Judges are appointed for life, sit repeatedly in panels together and often share a similar education and professional background. But when it comes to their judicial decision-making, could these close ties cause bias in their judgments? And if so, are there implications for other situations where close groups of experts are called upon to assess each other’s work?

Clare Leaver and Jordi Blanes i Vidal undertook a research project to explore possible biases in open peer-review by using data from the English superior courts.

This Research Insight summaries the methodology, results and implications of their project. In particular, it reveals some clear recommendations for how academic peer-review might be reformed to reduce the possibilities of unintended bias in decision-making.

The study is based on the article "Bias in Open Peer-Review: Evidence from the English Superior Courts," which won the fifth annual Oliver E. Williamson Prize for Best Article in the Journal of Law, Economics and Organization (2015).