Enhancing Equity, Diversity & Inclusion in Application Processes 

Application Review Procedure: Separating Anonymous from Identifiable Content

Selection processes often lead to discrimination against underrepresented groups1. Reducing discrimination makes our institutions fairer and more equitable, and diversity in teams contributes to producing better outcomes2.

At the bottom of this page is a link to download a how-to-guide for running a review process to minimise bias that reviewers introduce into application processes, whether consciously or unconsciously.

The Premise

You would like reviewers to assess some qualities of the application without knowing the identity of applicants. Examples might include an applicant’s skill set when applying for a job, or a project proposal when applying for research funding. Similarly, you may wish reviewers to give separate consideration to identifiable information, for example, when assessing an applicant’s track record. Such a review process enhances equality, diversity and inclusion in those you fund/employ, yet enables due consideration of important information that cannot be anonymous.

The Solution

When running the Cultural Evolution Society (CES) Transformation Fund, administrators split the application form into anonymous and identifiable content. They first made the anonymous content available for review. Upon receipt of this review, administrators then made the identifiable content available to reviewers.

Read more here about the outcomes of this reviewing process, and about further steps that were taken to enhance Equity, Diversity and Inclusion throughout the process.

Automating the Process

The procedure followed by the CES Transformation Fund team was time-consuming for the administrators. Moreover, even with the best intentions, there were delays between receiving the anonymous content review and sending the identifiable content document to reviewers. Meanwhile the reviewer had often moved onto unrelated tasks or, if working in a different time zone, gone to bed! The how-to-guide responds to the need to automate this process so that the review is completed efficiently from both the reviewer’s and administrator’s perspective. Importantly, for the review process to keep to schedule the reviewer can submit their review of both the anonymous and identifiable sections in one sitting.

In collaboration with the CES Transformation Fund, the automated procedure and guide was created by Durham Research Methods Centre which works with scholars and non-academic partners to develop interdisciplinary methods training and research. All that is required to use the guide is access to Microsoft Office 365.

If you use this guide, please include a link to this web page (https://sites.google.com/view/edi-application-process) and credit the "Cultural Evolution Society Transformation Fund" for the concept and the guide. We would also be very interested to hear about how you use it, and any further feedback - please email us at ces.transformationfund@durham.ac.uk

If you encounter any problems, or have questions or feedback, please email us at ces.transformationfund@durham.ac.uk

1 Nobles et al., 2022. Science must overcome its racist legacy. Nature 606: 225; Bombaci & Pejchar, 2022. Advancing equity in faculty hiring with diversity statements. Bioscience 72: 365.

2 Banal-Estañol et al., 2019. Evaluation in research funding agencies: Are structurally diverse teams biased against? Research Policy 48: 1823-1840; Rock & Grant, 2016. Why diverse teams are smarter. Harvard Business Review.