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A few months ago, I submitted a paper to a journal, and received a "can be published if such-and-such issues are addressed properly". I know who one of the reviewers (the one that wrote the most helpful review, in fact) is, largely because he decided to reveal his name in the review. In a couple of weeks, I'll happen to be in the vicinity of his university (this is serendipitous; I had already planned this trip before I knew he would be one of the reviewers).

Is it acceptable to contact him, tell him I'm the author of that paper he reviewed, and ask him if he has time for a meeting to discuss how I am addressing his comments? I have no shame in admitting that I am considering doing this to ensure that he is happy with my amendments to the paper, which in turn should make the second round of reviewing go more smoothly.

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    Although the fact that the referee already revealed their identity is already strange, I think it is a bad idea to directly contact referees, even if the purpose is arguably constructive... if only for the precedent that it sets, with changing expectations on both sides, in contrast to single-blind or double-blind refereeing. Among other things, it invites others to be suspicious of your publication, I think. – paul garrett Apr 29 '15 at 0:20
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    @paulgarrett Not strange at all to reveal your identidy in many fields. Many journals give the option of revealing your identity to the authors. However, I do think all communication should go through the handling editor, to make the process transparent, and to make sure that the editor knows about the communication. – fileunderwater Apr 30 '15 at 9:17
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This should depend on the journal policy. Both you as an author and the reviewer are bound by the rules the journal has in place with respect to the publication process. While it sounds like you are meeting with the reviewer solely for the purpose of improving the paper but it may come across as going out of one's way to others. To be on the safe side, I would suggest you contact the journal editor before organizing such a meeting. With a sign-off from the editor, you can be sure that you are playing a fair game. I would also keep co-authors in the loop if any.

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I think there is nothing inherently wrong with contacting the reviewer given that he has volunteered his name (and uncommon but commendable step). That said, you need to remain aware that that doesn't make her your friend and collaborator. Her duty is still to critically evaluate your paper. So, contacting or meeting her to discuss specific points of the critique seems fair game to me. But, asking how best to improve the paper, running ideas by her, asking for suggestions on how to address points best, etc, makes for an awkward conversation since you are putting the other person into a conflict of interest: helping you vs remaining impartial.

In other words, if you do end up having a longer conversation it would certainly be useful to have a frank conversation up front in which you lay out what you want to ask, and to offer right away that you don't think that she has any obligation to answer or help you with it.

If I was the reviewer, I would probably decline to meet, precisely because I'd like to avoid the conflict. But it takes a bit of experience to see a conflict of interest coming before you get yourself into it.

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    Why is it commendable of the reviewer to give their name? At least as long as the paper is still in review, it seems against the spirit of peer review. For instance, if the reviewer is a “big name” in the field, authors may be tempted to tailor their paper to the known tastes of the reviewer. It could also create the expectation that the reviewer wants something in return for a favorable review. – xebtl Apr 29 '15 at 10:31
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    That's a pessimistic view. My view is that we give reviewers anonymity so that they can say what they really think. If someone is willing to attach their name to it, they also put their reputation in the pool, rather than hiding. You can't write a crappy review and then sign it with your name. – Wolfgang Bangerth Apr 29 '15 at 21:07
  • I agree that what I wrote represents a pessimistic view :-). Mostly I wanted to give possible negative interpretations, not to say I would personally think so in every case (as always, context matters). I am only familiar with peer-review where the referees but not the authors are anonymous. I can definitely see an argument for treating both parties the same; but as long as (or in fields where) there is a strong norm for anonymous referees, giving your name might raise eyebrows, if for no other reason than because it is unusual. – xebtl May 5 '15 at 20:13
  • Also, you have to take into account that already the referees are not truly anonymous, since the editor knows who they are. Of course it is not the same at all, but it should still provide some incentive against a crappy review. – xebtl May 5 '15 at 20:16
  • Maybe, but crappy reviews do happen, and from people you know. As an editor, I've solicited dozens of reviews for papers, mostly from people I know. This should guarantee good reviews, but that's not always the case. – Wolfgang Bangerth May 6 '15 at 2:20
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I think communications should go through the handling editor, for two reasons:

  1. Since you plan to resubmit the manuscript, the same reviewer will probably be used to evaluate the manuscript again, and the editor will then rely on the reviewer as an independent agent without any conflict of interest. Therefore, communications should go through the editor, so that he/she is aware of how you have discussed the manuscript.
  2. It "shields" the reviewer at the initial stage. The reviewer's responsibilities lie with the journal/editor at the moment, and the reviewer shouldn't have to deal with author requests if he/she doesn't want to. If the reviewer chooses to contact you after initial request throught the editor, that is another thing.

Because of point 1, I think meeting in person is bad idea, even after initial contact through the editor. I also honestly do not see the point of meeting in person, considering the conflict-of-interest this can introduce - if the reviewer's comments are unclear, so that you are uncertain on how to proceed, you can request a clarification from the editor.

The journal probably has a policy on how authors and reviewers can/should interact, so you should contact the editor either way, before approaching the reviewer.

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