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Whenever this has happened to me I've just been explicit about it with the editor and left it to them to decide. I might say something like "In principle I'm happy to referee this paper, but I have a suspicion that I know who the author is because . I suspect I might be favourably disposed to the author, since I know them from , and have enjoyed their work previously."

Probably better to do this in some contexts like for the first question, where it might either be hard to get genuinely anonymous referees or just hard to get anonymous referees who aren't biased against the topic. And as long as you're up front with it, the editor knows the context for your comments (if they end up going ahead with it) and can make a judgment about them in line with that!

It's not ideal, but no peer review is, I think.


I feel like you are asking two very different questions here (one pragmatic/strategic and the other about review ethics), although there is an obvious connection between the two. Here are some pre-morning coffee ramblings:

In terms of the first question ("should I present this paper at conferences that those who are sympathetic to my view will probably attend?"), it seems like there are a couple of things to say.
First, if a conference is billed as being a generalist conference, then I don't think you should hesitate to submit/present your work there. If it's a paper on an issue in (for example) contemporary analytic philosophical theology, then you probably shouldn't submit it for presentation at, say, the Heidegger Circle Meeting. If you feel confident about your paper, and if the conference organizers feel the paper is worth including in their program, then I would not feel hesitant about presenting it if the primary concern is about encountering a few disagreeable audience members. Second, in some cases, it might work to your advantage to present in a context where your work is somewhat relevant to the conference but representative of a minority subfield/methodology (you might end up being the most knowledgeable person about this topic in the room).

In terms of the second question, it is not obvious that you would automatically be disqualified if a reviewer happened to be: (1) present for your talk and subsequently (2) happened to read an anonymous draft of your paper. I am assuming you mean that your hearers would be potentially refereeing the paper for a journal, not for the conference itself? One thing you could do is present at the conference, take some of the feedback received at the conference, and then expand/edit the paper in light of that feedback. This, of course, assumes you will receive some legitimately helpful comments at a conference.
Also, it's not obvious that "blind review" is genuinely as blind in all cases as we probably think it is. This is not just a problem of reviewers guessing the author (or explicitly reviewing the work of someone they know), but also for submitters who leave too many breadcrumbs for reviewers to follow. For example, some people list "Paper-A (under review at Journal-X)" on their CV, and a quick Google search of the paper title would give away their identity to a reviewer...again, this case is more an issue for authors than reviewers, but I think you get what I am saying.
All that to say: I think it is wise that you've asked this question because it shows strategic thinking on your part and a desire to maintain the integrity of the review process as far as is possible on your part. But I don't think you can control for: (1) exactly who is going to hear Paper-A at Conference-X, (2) how Paper-A will be received by S at Conference-X, and (3) whether S will serve as a reviewer of Paper-A for Journal-X.
Insofar as you do your part to remain anonymous in your submission, then I wouldn't have any hesitation in presenting/submitting the paper...But that's just me. Best of luck!

Daniel Weltman

Happily I've only published in subfields with lots of people so I haven't had to worry about this, but my completely uninformed impression is that it is an issue and that a lot of people get around it by going ahead and presenting at a conference and then people who review the paper do what the reply already submitted suggests: they review the paper even though it's not anonymous.

I think it's unethical to serve as an ostensibly anonymous reviewer even if you know the author's identity. I think what you ought to do is what L V says: tell the editor that you're pretty sure about the authorship, and let them decide. But I think a lot of people do what the person whose reply Marcus quoted does: they decide themselves whether there's a conflict of interest (answer: basically always 'no,' because we typically hold ourselves to be above such things) and then having made the decision they accept a reviewer request in situations like this. And so, since people do this quite often, you can safely present at the conference without worrying about excluding potential sympathetic reviewers from the pool.

Of course, not everyone does this as a reviewer. L V doesn't, I don't, etc. I once knew the author of a paper and told the editors this, saying that I don't think it would compromise my neutrality at all (I've never met the author in person, have no views about them, etc.). The editors nevertheless elected to pick another reviewer. If your potential reviewers act like this and the editors pick other reviewers, then of course by presenting at the conference you've hurt yourself. I don't think there's a good solution here (aside perhaps from polling everyone in your tiny subfield so see if they agree with L V and me or if they agree with the person Marcus quotes).

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