Calibrating “Cheap Signals” in Peer Review without a Prior

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 36 (NeurIPS 2023) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper


Yuxuan Lu, Yuqing Kong


Peer review lies at the core of the academic process, but even well-intentioned reviewers can still provide noisy ratings. While ranking papers by average ratings may reduce noise, varying noise levels and systematic biases stemming from ``cheap'' signals (e.g. author identity, proof length) can lead to unfairness. Detecting and correcting bias is challenging, as ratings are subjective and unverifiable. Unlike previous works relying on prior knowledge or historical data, we propose a one-shot noise calibration process without any prior information. We ask reviewers to predict others' scores and use these predictions for calibration. Assuming reviewers adjust their predictions according to the noise, we demonstrate that the calibrated score results in a more robust ranking compared to average ratings, even with varying noise levels and biases.In detail, we show that the error probability of the calibrated score approaches zero as the number of reviewers increases and is significantly lower compared to average ratings when the number of reviewers is small.