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I reviewed an article and submitted my review along with a short letter to the editor. As a service the journal permits to see the decision letter and the other review. However, I am also able to see the other reviewers' letter to the editor, which is signed with a name. My own short letter to the editor I did not sign with my name.

Is this supposed to be? If not, should I do anything in particular if I do find out by accident?

The issue is somewhat addressed in some of the answers for the question Are reviewers allowed to discuss their review with each other?. One answer states you're not meant to find out, while another one states once you've submitted your own review, it is normal to know who the other reviewers are and be able to see their reviews. There are two different issues here:

  1. Knowing the other reviewers' identity during the reviewing process.
  2. Knowing the other reviewers' identity after the reviewing process.

Is case (2) normal?

Edit: I might add that the policy of the journal is not a double-blind: the full list of authors and affiliations of the manuscript were purposefully disclosed to the reviewers.

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I think you should inform the editor, in case this is an unintended flaw in the software (which I suspect it is). If it is intentional, then the journal should warn referees that other referees will be allowed to see their letters. –  David Ketcheson Feb 15 '13 at 13:08
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4 Answers

No, its not normal to know who the other reviewers are if the journal has a double-blind review policy ( my background is Engineering disciplines, might be different in other fields).

What I have experienced in the double-blind review process both as a reviewer and the author:

  1. Knowing the other reviewers' identity during the reviewing process? NO, not normal.

  2. Knowing the other reviewers' identity after the reviewing process? NO, not normal.

  3. Knowing whether the editor accepted or reject the paper? NO (a very good practice as I have learned).

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How can (3) be blind? If it's accepted it's going to be published. –  gerrit Feb 15 '13 at 14:33
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Are you saying that it is nor is not normal? Some punctuation is missing. –  Dave Clarke Feb 15 '13 at 16:03
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@gerrit Of course you can go and check it out later if that's what you want! But I think it's a very useful policy and i have seen it by other editors and we have adopted it as well because: 1-If the paper gets accepted it can take up to one year for getting it published, so you will loose interest and not go figure out who it was from exactly 2-Paper might get rejected and you might assume its case 1 3-paper might get revision and it extends the cycle. What this does is that i have never cared/remembered to go and check later which papers I reviewed got accepted => GOOD Double-Blind practice. –  blackace Feb 15 '13 at 23:21
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Generally, reviewers are not supposed to learn the identity of other reviewers for the same submission. As mentioned in the comment by David Ketcheson, this looks like an error from the journal's side. It could also be the other reviewer's error, if he typed his letter to the editor into the wrong field - but the journal should have checked this before letting other reviewers see it.

In general, I never heard of reviewer names or their letters to the editor being revealed to another reviewer for the same submission. In my field, the letter to the editor is often described as "Confidential comments to the editor", and I always interpreted this as only the editor being allowed to see these comments. It is common though in many publication venues that as a reviewer, you get to see the other reviews for the same submission - but always after you submit your review and surely without the reviewers' names being shown.

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"It is common though in many publication venues that as a reviewer, you get to see the other reviews for the same submission" no this has never happened to me. A couple of times the editor gave me the other reviews to make the final judgement call based on everything but that was it. It has not been a general practice in my experience. –  blackace Feb 15 '13 at 23:40
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There is no good answer to that, and that's once again an example where the answer is discipline-specific. Many disciplines insist on double-blind review: the reviewer does not know who the author is, and the author does not know who the referees are. (Of course, in most specific enough topics, you hit a circle of about ten people who understand a given topic, and you kinda figure out whose paper it is even without googling it; likewise, you can often figure out the reviewers from their suggestion to cite their work.) Some disciplines, or some journals, just send you the original submission with the author's name on it. Some journals disclose the names of the referees after the paper is accepted, but they would warn you of that. Most journals would publish a thank-you list of all the referees in the past year in the last issue of the year.

Now, some interesting twists. I had a referee from a math department contact me directly with his opinion on my paper that was submitted to a psychology journal. Now, psychology is very tight-lipped, and it was on a boundary of a scandal for the journal. But this seemed to be the standard and natural practice in the home field of the referee. Moreover, on some mathematicians CVs, I have seen not only the papers authored, but also the papers reviewed, so it's the opposite of double-blind.

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I am a mathematician, and your description doesn't match my experience of peer-review practices. Certainly ensuring technical correctness is an important function of peer review, but the referee is also asked to judge the paper's importance and novelty, for which different journals have different standards. (Some only publish groundbreaking work or solutions to notorious longstanding problems; others will publish minor incremental improvements of existing work.) –  Nate Eldredge Feb 15 '13 at 14:24
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Referees are generally anonymous, since their opinions on importance, clarity, etc may be controversial. Exceptions are sometimes made in very special cases; a proposed proof of an extremely famous result (like Fermat's last theorem) may be refereed publicly by a team of experts. I have never seen a mathematician's CV which lists papers reviewed. There may be a few people who disagree with the idea of anonymous reviews and intentionally reveal their identities when refereeing, but they are not the norm. –  Nate Eldredge Feb 15 '13 at 14:45
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Interesting. Thanks for putting a first hand expertise into this. I am a social science statisticians, and interact with math folks but irregularly. I'll edit my answer. –  StasK Feb 15 '13 at 16:55
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There is normally no process to inform reviewers of their respective reports. Some journals may relate back the editor verdict based on the reviewers comments to the reviewers but not even that is commonplace. In journals with an open discussion format (see e.g. Copernicus' journals), reviewers may become aware of each other and certainly raed each others reviews after they have been posted. But, as long as reviewers are allowed to be anonymous, it is unlikely that journals will adopt such an exchange. It does not appear as if electronic submission systems have such structures built in (not the ones I have been involved with). To keep reviewers unknown to each other and keep their review reports "sectret" until the review is done is of course sound since it ensures independent reviews.

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