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12/22/2020

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anon

there are (not so) subtle ways to out oneself as a reviewer. you do it by suggesting the author to refer to paper by X, published the year YYYY.

Sometimes it is nice. I recently had a paper accepted in a good journal and, on the second round of reviews, reviewer#1 suggested to refer to X (yyyy). Since I particularly admire X, I am very happy to imagine that X was one of the reviewer. Should I now write to them to thank them?

Similarly, over the past summer, I had another paper rejected because I was not referring to Z (yyyy), Z (kkkk), Z (nnnn). Something tells me Z did the review. and I now have some animosity towards Z (who might well not have been the reviewer) because of that rejection (for the record, I think the reviewer really misunderstood the paper which will eventually come out anyway, hopefully even in a more appreciated venue).

Doug Portmore

I wrote a paper on the repugnant conclusion as a graduate student and Derek Parfit reviewed the paper and recommended rejection. Parfit had no trouble being respectful and constructive. And I was honored and greatly helped by his three pages of single-spaced comments. Also, I don't see any problem arising from the disparity of power between us. Given it was a rejection, there was no pressure to be deferential. The only other time that I remember a journal reviewer identifying his or herself was another very famous philosopher (still alive - so I won't use his or her name) who recommended revise and resubmit but who wasn't at all heavy-handed in his or her comments. The reviewer made clear that he or she could be wrong on various points and was open to being convinced otherwise. In any case, I don't really see the discrepancy in power to be a major concern. After all, at conferences and workshops, there is often a huge discrepancy of power between the audience member voicing some criticism and the author/presenter. And I don't think that it would be better if audience questions/criticisms were presented anonymously. And I know a lot of people who have no problem being quite up front and honest in their criticisms even when their identity is known. So I think that it's often okay to reveal your identity, but that you certainly mention things that one should consider before they do.

Helen De Cruz

Doug: that's a good point--I do think that dynamics at conferences etc suffer from power imbalance. For example, I once was at a talk with a famous and prominent philosopher who gave a comment on a presentation by a postdoc. The postdoc was very deferential toward the prominent philosopher. But the prominent philosopher was hugely dismissive, saying that he would shorten his comment from 20 minutes to 5 minutes because he saw no merit in the paper. It was really dreadful. We were shocked and aghast. It reflected poorly on the prominent philosopher, not on the postdoc (who had a very competent paper).

Junior Scholar

The exchange in the comments between Doug and Helen makes me think about the emergence of 360 degree evaluations in business settings. How are people in authority roles (including as journal reviewers) held accountable for doing a fair job, being respectful, etc.? I don't think abolishing blind review is the only way to increase accountability, or even the best way, but I should hope that some mechanisms regarding transparency and accountability are in place - at the level of managing journal editors for example. Some of the moves toward triple (or more?) blind review have good intentions but also risk other harms when everyone is anonymized. For example, why do we think that forms of implicit bias are not creeping into "blind" peer review? Especially bias against some philosophical areas (feminist philosophy, critical race theory, etc.) that might also stand in for bias against groups who are assumed to engage in those areas?

F. Contesi

Hear hear, Junior Scholar!

Anon UK Grad

A related question: a few years ago, I was refereeing a paper. I liked it a lot, R&R'd it, and then recommended publication on the next version; it was published.

Throughout the process, the identity of the author was unknown to me, and I didn't out myself during the refereeing. Of course, I know who wrote it now because I've see the published version.

The question: is it appropriate to contact the author /after/ publication and out yourself as the referee? Are there risks that I am not seeing in doing that?

Junior Scholar

Anon UK Grad: I think Helen addresses this in her original post:

'"I loved your paper! I was the reviewer who recommended accept". What motivation could one have for writing this and not just "I read your paper on XX that just came out in Journal Y and I really loved it" when it appears in print?'

I don't see any good reasons for naming yourself as the reviewer (fill some in if you do) and I see plenty of bad ones (it exerts power over the author/might expect something in turn from them).

Why not just tell them you work in a similar area and liked their paper? If you want to discuss it in detail/collaborate/discuss next projects, great, but telling them you refereed the paper is likely to make any of that follow up more awkward, and possibly believe to be compulsory to the person receiving such an invitation from you knowing you reviewed their work.

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