Implicit biases are unconscious attitudes or stereotypes that affect how we perceive others; they sometimes run contrary to our conscious beliefs. Employers and law enforcement officers have faced criticism about implicit bias in the hiring of new employees and arresting of potential criminals. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the organization that publishes Science magazine, recently looked into the role of implicit biases in the scientific review processes.
The issue of implicit bias in the peer review process is significant because a strong publication record is critical to success in most science and engineering fields. Bias in the grant review process may determine which scientists are able to continue working in their field. If some groups of people are less likely to publish and get funding, then the professional sphere of science will remain more homogeneous.
This is problematic because diverse groups tend to be more creative and innovative. If the peer review process is preventing science from becoming as diverse, then innovation is likely being held back as well.