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Recently, some of the reviews I received mentioned their decision at the end of the review (i.e. 'I recommend acceptance of the paper'), while others do not have such statements.

What is the point of adding the decision statement while the overall evaluation (i.e. on EasyChair system) explicitly says it? Is it just the reviewer's habit?

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Why not include the recommendation in the report? –  JeffE Feb 21 '13 at 0:01
    
@JeffE I will preface this by saying that I am not an editor but through conversations I have had with editors in my field (biology - ecology), they seem to prefer that the specific recommendation (accept/reject) go only to the editor and not the authors. This is because the decision comes from the editor based on the recommendation of the reviewers. If the reviewers reveal their recommendation to the authors, then it potentially makes it harder for the editor (e.g, both reviewers say accept but after considering both reviews as a whole, the editor decides reject). –  KennyPeanuts Feb 21 '13 at 11:25
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@KennyPeanuts: This is an argument for including the recommendation in the report, not against. If both reviewers recommend acceptance, the editor had better have a damn good reason to reject. Of course there are circumstances where rejection is the appropriate decision, but then the editor needs to own that decision. –  JeffE Feb 23 '13 at 0:39
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@JeffE I agree that the editor should always own the decision. The editor should always reference evidence from the reviews that they used to make their decision regardless of whether the reviewers revealed their specific recommendation. In the end it is the content of the review that is most valuable to the author. The recommendation by the reviewer is made with incomplete information and should be taken as just a recommendation. –  KennyPeanuts Feb 23 '13 at 2:12
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3 Answers

up vote 22 down vote accepted

Typically I include an explicit recommendation in the report to be shared with the authors when I have a strong opinion, but not necessarily otherwise. In the former case, the editor can still decide either way (referees make recommendations, not decisions), but if they disagree with me at least the authors will know for sure what the referee thought.

what is the point of adding the decision statement while the overall evaluation (i.e. on EasyChair system) explicitly says it? is it just the reviewer habit?

It may be habit, and it may reflect uncertainty about what information from the web form will be available to the authors.

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The only reason I can think of to include a outright recommendation the authors can see is if the "feel" of my comments and the decision don't necessarily align naturally. For example, if I've issued a lot of criticisms, but most of those are "With fine tuning, this would be an outstanding paper", or hoping to see what is an adequate treatment of really spectacular data turn into a great treatment, I might not that despite the page of suggestions, it could probably fly as is.

At the same time, I've reviewed a paper with a very small number of comments, but in those comments have been tempted to use words like 'fatally flawed'. So including a 'I would reject this paper' comment might help with "There are only three things you need to change, but you need to take them seriously."

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As far as I can see there are two main reasons:

  • The editor usually isn't an expert in every area. Adding an explicit recommendation (accept, reject, ...) may help the editor.
  • An explicit recommendation (accept, reject, ...) is the reviewer's ultimate summary. The reviewer should only provide it if they can defend it and feel it's fair. In that sense adding the recommendation strengthens the review.
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I am down-voting this because the question is asking about a recommendation that the authors can see. One always has to provide an explicit recommendation for the editor. But more importantly most of the editors that I know frown on writing the recommendation in the review for the authors because the editor should be the one communicating the decision to the authors not the reviewers. –  KennyPeanuts Feb 20 '13 at 16:16
    
@KennyPeanuts So you don't think that adding the recommendation of the reviewer adds more significance to the review? In my experience the reviewers' opinions are usually included. –  Marc van Dongen Feb 21 '13 at 10:20
    
This may be a difference in our disciplines but as I say in my comment above to JeffE, essentially all of the editors that I have talked to in my field (biology - ecology) have preferred that the reviewer only indicate the specific recommendation to the editor and not the authors. This is because the editor makes a decision based on a consideration of the content of all the reviews. It is not simply a vote by the reviewers. If the recommendation is included in the review it makes it harder for the editor to go against that recommendation if the other reviews warrant it. –  KennyPeanuts Feb 21 '13 at 11:31
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@KennyPeanuts, I share JeffE's reaction. If that is the rationale for your field's practices, frankly, I find them bordering on dysfunctional. If the editor wants to go against the recommendation of the reviewers, maybe he/she should feel a little pressure to justify the decision; that seems only appropriate and reasonable to me. I find it hard to be sympathetic to the idea of "hiding the ball" from the author, to preserve the editor's power to hide the reasons for the decision. Perhaps I just care more about authors than about editors, and view editors as public servants. –  D.W. Feb 23 '13 at 1:44
    
@D.W. I guess I don't place as much value on the actual recommendation as I do on the content of the review. No one is advocating hiding the ball. A proper review should be comprehensive in its evaluation and provide an unambiguous picture of the paper's strengths and weaknesses. Nor should the editor hide his or her reasons for a decision. The editor should always include the evidence that was used to arrive at the decision. The rec. made by the reviewer is not made with all of the info available so it's not really that valuable to the author, regardless of who cares more about whom. –  KennyPeanuts Feb 23 '13 at 2:08
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