Don’t worry! I do not reveal your identity when I send your paper out for refereeing. Journal editors don’t normally do that. But reviewers often feel the need to search for the identity of the author. It’s so tempting to plug the title into the Google search engine. The unconscious inside the referee goes: “Ah! A Mr. Nobody or a minority person! They are not all that smart. Let’s get that paper rejected.” I know it. You know it, too. If you don’t, go take the Harvard Implicit Association Test. It will show you that you do have those biases. “But,” you may ask, “is it really true that referees google papers before making decisions?” Yep. It’s true. I know. I know because people tell me. They are not shy about it either. They say that that’s what they do. They don’t think it will cause them to make biased decisions. They just want to know whose paper they are wasting their time on. You have a quick comeback: “There is a way to avoid the Google phenomenon. Don’t upload your paper to your website until it’s forthcoming in a journal. That takes care of the problem, right?” Not really. If you are prudent, you don’t submit your papers until your ideas have been vetted at conferences. So when people google your paper’s title, they will find it, because it was listed at those conferences. “But,” you think, “I am cleverer than the googling referee. I will just change the title of my paper before submitting. So when the referees google it, the paper won’t come up.” Not so fast. Referees have told me time and time again that if they don’t find the title on Google, they may google phrases (slightly unusual ones) or first lines or arbitrary lines. So even if you change the paper’s title, the referees may still figure out who you are.
It's hard enough to be "low on the totem pole" without referees behaving in this kind of way. Is there anything that can be done about it?