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Pretty much in the title: why do several journals prohibit authors from acknowledging reviewers? I have seen this in many (neuroscience) journals across publishers (both clinically oriented and non-clinically oriented)

Possible reasons I could think of:

  • Journal policy makers think that it might bias the review process (seems ridiculous to me)
  • For journals publishing clinical research, they may be overly sensitive about any perceived conflict of interest (although I don't see how acknowledging anonymous reviewers could be perceived as conflict of interest).

For example: "Acknowledgements should be brief, and should not include thanks to anonymous referees and editors, inessential words, or effusive comments." (from Nature)

Merely searching for "should not include thanks to anonymous referees" shows up several journal results; either they all copied from the same place or else ...

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    A possible reason is suggested by the answer to this question: academia.stackexchange.com/questions/63105/… – Mark Meckes Jan 5 at 21:48
  • Probably because most referee thanks are boilerplate "inessential." – Azor Ahai -him- Jan 5 at 21:48
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    I thought the acknowledgement section was a place for the authors to thank someone if they think they needed to be thanked for contributions to the paper; whether or not a referee feels it is "inessential" shouldn't matter – stuckstat Jan 5 at 21:50
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    @MarkMeckes however in this case the acknowledgement to anonymous referee does not have the (strong) implied connotation of endorsement since there are no names or affiliations and technically no one would know who these reviewers are – stuckstat Jan 5 at 21:57
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    As a partial counterexample, Physical Review allows to acknowledge referees, but only "fully anonymously", i.e., "we thank an anonymous referee", rather than "we thank Referee A". – user151413 Jan 5 at 22:01
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An acknowledgment, like any other part of the paper, needs to add useful information to justify the journal space and readers’ attention that it’s taking up. The information that the anonymous referee contributed from their time and gave helpful feedback is already known to everyone, and so is not useful or interesting.

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    I find the space argument somewhat unpersuasive. I suppose "We thank an anonymous referee for X" is on average slightly longer than "We thank NAMED PERSON for X", but the difference seems only marginal. In any case, people aren't acknowledging reviewers for just doing "the usual", right? The one time I tried to, the referee went above and beyond. Their contribution was large enough that, had I known their name, it would arguably have been unethical to not acknowledge them (or at least offer to). Does that really change because they were anonymous? – Anyon Jan 6 at 16:17
  • @Anyon yes, it changes everything. Saying that a specific, named person helped you gives the readers useful information. Saying an anonymous referee helped you doesn’t. Don’t get me wrong, it’s very nice to thank referees and I’ve done it myself many times. I’m just trying to answer OP’s question about the journal policies. – Dan Romik Jan 6 at 18:35

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