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I remember reading somewhere about someone who started publishing referee reports they had written online, along with sending them to the journal (or after). Unfortunately I do not remember where I saw this and can't seem to find it now.

I see strong arguments for this practice.

  1. A lot of time and effort is spent on report writing, so why not list them.
  2. Transparency for its own sake.
  3. Transparency for the sake of increasing quality.

Obviously there are issues:

  1. Copy right or other legal issues with journals prohibiting the publication of reports [has to be taken up with the editor]
  2. If the paper itself is not published, publishing the report might be harmful to the authors [one could wait until the final version of the paper is published]

My question: Is this already common practice somewhere and do repositories exist where one can upload reports? Are there other strong counterarguments I am missing?

  • You need to be careful before doing this. I remember reading (no time to look for source right now unfortunately) that some publishers explicitly prohibit reviewers from publishing their reviews. Also, in some fields at least, reviewers are expected to pretend they they're not reviewers after reviewing. – Allure Aug 23 '18 at 13:11
  • The ones I wrote. I hope my edits made the question clearer – sheß Aug 23 '18 at 13:13
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    It is often explicit (and even more often implicit) that the manuscript sent to you for review is "privileged information" which you are not allowed to disclose to the public. I take that to include disclosing that such a manuscript exists. – GEdgar Aug 23 '18 at 13:25
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    @sheß Publishing a review derived from "privileged information" is also a problem. (Consider the reviewing process as taking place under an NDA, hence, you cannot reveal the manuscript nor what you derive from the manuscript.) – user2768 Aug 23 '18 at 14:01
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    @Allure From a legal standpoint, the journals have no claim over reviews. I wrote them, I did not sign an NDA or a contract or anything, I am free to do what I want with them. Do not let the journals bully you out of more of your work than they already do. – Federico Poloni Aug 23 '18 at 15:42
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Yes, there are repositories. You could consider registering with Publons (see https://publons.com/home/). You simply forward the 'thank you for your review' email and upload the review and Publons keeps track of what journals you have reviewed for etc. Many of the major publishers are now automatically linking to Publons so you can simply press a button when you complete the review and you don't even need to do the upload.

In theory, Publons keeps track of whether the journal allows the review to be made public, but I have found that to be unreliable for one of the journals I regularly provide reviews to so you should take care. But Publons does other useful things like track whether a paper is eventually published, provide a summary of your review activity etc.  

8

Take care with this. Since you write them, the words are yours unless the journal has required that you yield all rights to them or otherwise restricts your actions.

However, you should consider whether it is ethical to break the blind or double blind nature of review. There are reasons for that, though some are a bit esoteric.

If you need to say negative things about someone's paper and they take it personally, then you could find yourself in the middle of an academic war and those other people with an interest in an author's work might join the fray.

You also need to be sure that whatever you need to quote in a review is properly cited as in any other work. This makes publishing a double-blind review impossible, of course.

Some things might need to be confidential for various reasons, including patentable work. Some things need to be reserved until the paper is published, I think.

However, maybe the biggest issue is as follows. Often enough, by the time a paper is edited and re-edited, it no longer bears a lot of similarity to the version that you reviewed. In some fields this is a bigger problem than others, of course, but don't discount it. This will, potentially, reflect badly on yourself if you say things about a paper that aren't true about the published version.

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Rather than publishing private reviews, wait until the submitted manuscript is published and then publish a critique. You can base your critique on your private review (albeit, this may compromise your anonymity), but you must update it to consider the published version, rather than the submitted manuscript.

  • +1. That makes sense. The critique need not even refer to the review or mention that it was done. Then anonymity isn't compromised. Anyone can critique an article. – Buffy Aug 23 '18 at 14:11
  • @Buffy Those privy to the review can perhaps unveil the reviewer's identity. – user2768 Aug 24 '18 at 8:17

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