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01/19/2022

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postduck

I don't mind when reviewers reveal their identities to me after the fact. It can be a nice way to build a new professional connection. It's also a little amusing when you learn that reviewer 2 was someone you knew.
I guess one potential harm might be if the reviewer guesses the identity of the author, notes that the author has some capacity to help them in the future, and then gives a positive review with the plan to reveal themselves later in the hopes of receiving some gratitude. That might undermine the reviewing process. But if the reviewer only learns the author's identity after the fact, I see no harm in it.

Assistant Professor

I appreciate postduck's view, but mine departs from it. I think that IF we are going to pursue norms of anonymity in peer review, then it is our responsibility to uphold those norms. There are all sorts of reasons to discontinue double or triple anonymous review (see examples from other fields for pros and cons) but if our profession wants to keep this system then I think reviewers ought to maintain anonymity.

I've experienced someone disclosing to me they were the reviewer of an accepted paper, and it created awkwardness with no benefit to me. I wasn't sure what this person wanted from telling me their role, I felt they were critical of my view and could have found other ways to engage that criticism that didn't disclose their role, and I was frankly disappointed that this person and not someone whom I believe would have been a better "fit" for the project, was the reviewer, even though my paper was accepted.

non-TT

I do think that Assistant Professor above makes some good points, and while I generally agree, I have found that there were times in which revealing my role as referee was later appropriate.

I'm thinking particularly of a time in which I offered some interpretive points in a referee report that were (to my knowledge) not defended anywhere in print and relevant to an esoteric point the author was making, which they later took up in their paper. Years later, when we met at a conference and I was working a bit on the issue in a paper of my own, I revealed my identity so as to discuss the matter further.

So my point is that I try my best to avoid telling authors something like, "I was your referee that wrote a nice report and absolutely loved the paper," even though I'm often tempted. But I also take it that the need to develop work on important philosophical issues in conversation can, at times, be more important than the anonymity of the review process, especially years after the fact.

Chris

I've benefited enormously from reviewers identifying themselves to me after the fact - valuable professional/intellectual connections, and all that. Assistant Professor's experience above seems to show that there are some cases in which we shouldn't do it, but not (I'd have thought) that we should never do it. Perhaps we just need to think hard about why we want to do it, and whether we really should, in each case.

I think I've had referees offer, via the handling editor, to be put in touch - and thus de-anonymised - thereby leaving the choice to me. So that's an option.

B

Early in my career, two very senior people revealed they were referees for papers of mine. In one case, the referee said it in the referee report - my paper was critical of his views. He disclosed he was the referee, and conceded the main point of my argument. In the other case, it was by accident that the disclosure happened. I was talking with the senior person at a conference about a paper I was revising for an R&R, discussing my argument with them. It became very clear that she was the referee - though she said she had assumed that someone else wrote the paper (someone she did know). In both cases, these people helped me later, as they both respected or valued my work.

Assistant Professor

I will add that there are plenty of ways to engage with someone's work, follow up with them, build connections, and help them with their work, that do not require an individual to disclose their role in the peer review process. A reviewer could, for example, wait for the paper to come out in print and send their remarks or congratulations or engage further with the paper as any other reader could, without disclosing their role as a reviewer.

While I appreciate the instances people share in which they have had beneficial outcomes following someone disclosing their reviewer status to them, I don't see in this examples how knowing that they were the reviewer was material to the benefits later gained. Which isn't to say there are not good arguments in favor of disclosing peer reviewer status - but I don't think we have arrived at one yet. There are plenty of reasonable alternatives to achieve the putative benefits others are suggesting without contravening the norms of anonymous review.

non-TT

@Assistant Professor, my point above is that some ideas could not be communicated without reference to one’s role in the review process, e.g., points from a referee report that have not appeared elsewhere in print. Hopefully this gets us closer to a good argument for disclosing peer reviewer status.

Post-Hope, Pre-grad

@on-TT - Why can you not just raise these same points without mentioning that you were the referee? If you think that having a conversation on esoteric points raised in your report is a good idea, then doing so seems like a great idea. But adding "I already wrote these in the referee report" doesn't seem to do anything to improve the conversation. And, as noted above, it can create barriers to a smooth conversation by making it sound like you want something.

Now, perhaps they might infer that you were the referee. That's fine. But not only is that less of a big deal, but it is far from guaranteed. Especially years later. They could have forgotten that these were in the review *or* could fail to make the connection. And even if they do make the connection, this isn't proof that it was you and it avoids the concerns raised above.

non-TT

@Post-Hope, Pre-grad, fair points, but I struggle to imagine the situation that I have in mind happening as you suggest. In the correspondence I have in mind, there were multiple discussions, including arguments with premises and provisionary conclusions, discussed over multiple (I think three) drafts between me and the author. To return to that discussion, I would have needed to work backwards to get to their initial point (which did not ultimately appear in print), repeat several provisional points that we later discharged, work through all of this again, etc. This seems disingenuous at best (closer, in fact, to downright lying), and my identity would very quickly have been obvious to the author anyway.

In short, I don't believe that the conversation reasonably could have been possible without referring back to points that I could only have known from reading earlier drafts and making a specific set of comments upon which the paper's argument was built, and which would need to be addressed again.

My point has been that anonymity is important, but some things are more important, like philosophical progress. When the two are in conflict--and the burden has been on me to show that they can at times be in genuine conflict--I take the latter to be more important. But I nevertheless support the view that anonymity should not be compromised without good reason.

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