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I am reviewing a publication, in which the authors give the URL of an online tool (data analysis and sharing) they have developed. This URL has apparently not yet been publicized, as searching for it in Google didn't bring any result. Because of that, I'm worried that the paper's authors may identify me as a referee when I go check their website (after all, the logs must be clear). That probably wouldn't be very ethical, but I have no way of being sure they won't do it.

What I am supposed to do about it? I thought of contacting the editor asking for guidance, using a private proxy[1], or logging from an internet café somewhere. Do you have any other suggestions? Or am I just worrying too much?


  1. I don't know which anonymizing proxy service to use, and I welcome suggestions in comments, but that probably isn't particularly relevant to this site.
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    I think it's a valid question, I've been wondering the same. I guess if you connect from your university network, the identification might still be vague, similarly from home, but otherwise, you can easily find some free proxies on the web. – user102 Oct 10 '12 at 14:19
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    google hide my ass. – Ran G. Oct 10 '12 at 15:28
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First, I think you are worrying too much. Second, I think it is bad form on the part of the authors. If the material on the website is critical for the paper, it needs to be provided in an archival form that the journal can keep track of. I would evaluate it based on what you have been given.

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    Maybe a necessary precision: the URL is that of the online tool they developed, which is discussed in the paper, for data analysis and sharing. So, its purpose is to be an online tool, it is not merely material to download. I've edited the question. – F'x Oct 10 '12 at 14:54
  • @F'x It doesn't matter what the purpose of the online material is. The paper needs to be able to stand on its own. – StrongBad Oct 10 '12 at 16:25
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    So, no paper about software unless complete source code is attached? Then customs definitely vary depending on the field… It is very common in chemistry – F'x Oct 10 '12 at 16:27
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    @DanielE.Shub In principle, I absolutely agree that all papers about software should require journal-maintained source code. Unfortunately, in practice, that's simply impossible. Research software is tangled in too many IP issues (generated by the authors, their employers, and/or software they build on) for that to be in any way reasonable, even if publishers had the resources and expertise to maintain other people's code. This paper is about an author-created online tool, so of course the actual online tool, in its natural setting (on the web), is an integral part of the submission. – JeffE Oct 10 '12 at 19:08
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    In bioinformatics, it is rather common for websites to already be online and even have a large non-trivial number of users before the associated paper comes out. However, for the most part, a paper that explains how to use a website, it is rather hard to separate and isolate the two. – bobthejoe Oct 10 '12 at 21:01
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On the technical side, you can use Tor. That's what I do as a reviewer for accessing on-line supplements to blind reviewed conference submissions.

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