-2

When a paper appears in a science journal, why do not mention the names of the reviewers so that we, as readers can get an idea about the seriousness of the paper?

  • 11
    How do you connect the seriousness of a paper with the reviewers' names? – corey979 Dec 21 '18 at 15:34
  • 10
    That doesn't make sense to me. The author is responsible for the quality of a paper, not the reviewer. – corey979 Dec 21 '18 at 16:18
  • 6
    The journal's IF is a metric for evaluating the journal (whatever that would mean), and the quality of a paper is independent on the journal (except for predatory journals and such). Why do you bring up the IF suddenly? – corey979 Dec 21 '18 at 16:51
  • 5
    if the author is responsible for the quality of a paper (only), we will not need a journal's IF. — That's exactly correct. We don't need the journal's IF. – JeffE Dec 21 '18 at 18:26
  • 4
    If I, as a reviewer, recommend rejection of a paper but the editor decides to publish it anyway (which he has the right to do), I'd be unhappy if the publication says "reviewed by Andreas Blass" and people think I approved of the paper. I'd also be unhappy if the publication says "reviewed by Andreas Blass but published against his recommendation"; now people won't think I approved but the author will be angry with me. – Andreas Blass Dec 22 '18 at 1:36
15

There are at least two reasons that reviewing is anonymous.

The first, probably less important, reason is that we want reviews to be honest and immune from any pressure. Some junior academics in fact wind up reviewing papers by senior members of the profession. We don't want pressure applied before the review is complete, nor retaliation afterwards.

But, in my view, the more important reason is that a paper should speak for itself. It either says something significant or it does not. The opinions of others should weigh less than the statements in the paper itself in the final analysis. If a well respected academic wrongly promotes a paper, harm can be done. Mistakes can be made. Let the paper itself stand or fall on its own.

  • 3
    I think that the "more important reason" hardly applies to the real world. As it is, the papers do not stand on their own --- they are bolstered by the names of the author and the journal. In fact almost the entire point of modern publishing is to get journals' endorsement. – Boris Bukh Dec 21 '18 at 21:27
  • 1
    I had never heard this "more important reason" before. And it makes little sense: disclosing reviewers' names would not make the text of the paper weigh much less. Is this a new argument of yours or do you have some reference on that? – Sylvain Ribault Dec 21 '18 at 21:35
  • @BorisBukh, that seems an odd comment from a mathematician. – Buffy Dec 21 '18 at 21:35
  • @SylvainRibault, I worry more that people will think it is more important than it really is, based on comments. As I said, it is a personal view. – Buffy Dec 21 '18 at 21:37
  • @Buffy As a mathematician I would be extremely happy if papers could indeed just stand on their own. I was commenting on my perception of modern academia, and not on my ideal vision for it. (Sorry, if I misunderstood your comment.) – Boris Bukh Dec 21 '18 at 21:39
7

Some journals do, such as the Frontiers journals; here's an article I wrote that names the reviewers at the bottom. But the reason most journals don't is that this compromises the anonymity of reviewers, which is widely considered necessary to protect reviewers from reprisal from bad reviews. Personally, I think the benefits of transparency outweigh these dangers and hence reviews should be non-anonymous (I sign all my reviews, so long as journal policy permits me to), but I'm in the minority here.

  • 1
    Right. And you can have the best of both worlds by having reviewers' namers public by default, allowing them to be anonymous if they so choose. You are the minority only because most people are conservative, i.e. biased in favour of the existing system. I am not so sure you are in the minority among people who actually thought about the issue. – Sylvain Ribault Dec 21 '18 at 21:48
6
  1. The general idea behind anonymity of a review is that the reviewer can write his/her opinion without being concerned that that the author is offended (and will potentially revenge in some way).

  2. Having said that there are some journals that do publish reviewers names, for example Frontiers: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fcell.2018.00102/full (see top left corner). There are also journals that publish reviews and the rebuttal of the author, for example eLife: https://elifesciences.org/articles/39865 (see decision letter and author response sections). But this is usually done without reviewers' names.

5

It's been tried. There's no gain in the quality of the review, the speed of the review, or change in the recommendation, but there is a disadvantage of lots more people declining to review.

Given that then, plus the fact that knowing the name of the reviewer can lead to a potential backlash down the road (can you remain impartial if the same reviewer is consistently recommending rejection for your work?), this is not necessarily a good change to make.

  • +1 for the first two lines. However, I do not agree that "[it] isn't broken". Peer review does not really work very well. It is very rare that I get a seriously useful review for my own papers, or even as editor for others. In the deluge of papers we have nowadays, I think post-review models may be actually more practical and less time wasting, as people will not have to spend time with a less relevant/interesting paper. But that's just me. – Captain Emacs Dec 22 '18 at 9:24
  • 1
    Fair point, edited. – Allure Dec 22 '18 at 10:00
0

Journals may run a list at the end of the year thanking by name all the reviewers.

But the main answer to your question: reviewers for a particular paper are anonymous. [It is a separate question why reviewers are anonymous.]

  • 1
    The question specifically asks why not mention the reviewers' names, so as it stands your answer does not answer the question. – corey979 Dec 21 '18 at 15:37
  • 2
    Why not mention the reviewer's names? Because then they would no longer be anonymous. So I guess you want to re-ask the question of why the reviewers are anonymous? – GEdgar Dec 21 '18 at 18:07

Your Answer

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.