Are they almost always kept confidential? Or is there protocol for sharing them?

  • 2
    I'm curious about your intent... why would there be a protocol for sharing reviews about a paper you publish? Why would you care about someone's comments on a paper I wrote that hasn't been published yet?
    – eykanal
    Mar 4, 2012 at 2:31
  • What about reviews post-publication? I'm actually learning how to write reviews myself, so I'm curious. Plus, it's always interesting how reviews shape the direction of a paper. Mar 4, 2012 at 15:38
  • @InquilineKea possibly duplicate discussion here
    – ElCid
    Aug 28, 2012 at 12:18
  • 1
    @ElCid Technically, InquilineKea asked the question before mine, so mine would be the duplicate :) However, I think the objective of the question are slightly different, as my question mostly focuses on the legal and ethical aspects of publishing a review, while this question is more general.
    – user102
    Aug 28, 2012 at 12:29
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    I can imagine one context in which it would be extremely useful to share them: rejected and resubmitted papers. As an editor, if I get a second-hand submission, I'd want to know why it was sacked the first time, who did the review, and what the authors did in reply. As far as I know, currently there is no practical nor moral obligation to even inform an editor that it is a resubmission. Sep 25, 2012 at 7:05

6 Answers 6


In my experience, the contents of the comments of other referee reports are only made indirectly available. Since the authors are normally expected to provide a response to the reviews, the relevant criticisms and comments of the other referees are typically mentioned or discussed in that document. Outside of that, however, there's often little direct sharing of referee reports. None of the eight or nine journals for which I've reviewed (physics, chemistry, chemical engineering) have allowed me to see directly the reviews submitted by the other referees.

At any rate, the results are almost always kept confidential, unless it is an "open" referee process by design. (There are a few journals now that make the refereeing process a part of the publication record for a given paper; an example is The Cryosphere.)

  • Would you have some references for the journals you mention at the end? I've never submitted to a journal with an open referee process, and I'd be curious to see how they make it.
    – user102
    Mar 4, 2012 at 8:01
  • 1
    Added a link, although I don't know of many such journals, either.
    – aeismail
    Mar 4, 2012 at 13:59

Some journals/conferences have explicit guidelines that tell you to treat the reviews confidential. I'm not aware of any journal that makes the reviews and authors' response publically available when a paper is published.

I think publishing reviews for your papers would in general be frowned upon, even if there's no explicit rule saying that you can't. That said, I've been wondering about that myself and we had discussions about it at our school because the quality of some reviews is very bad and making them public might help improve the quality of peer reviewing in the long term.

I personally try to write reviews in a way that I wouldn't object to them being published with my name on it (although all the reviews I've done so far have been anonymous).


It varies substantially by field and journal. (As I keep saying, this is true of pretty much every question on this board.) Often they are shared not just with the author but the other reviewers, too. The author can show them to whomever they like. Beyond that, there's no formal sharing mechanism, and no real demand for one.

  • 1
    It is not true that the answer to pretty much every question varies substantially by field and journal. For instance (and it's in no way exhaustive): academia.stackexchange.com/q/8/102 academia.stackexchange.com/q/3/102 academia.stackexchange.com/q/530/102 academia.stackexchange.com/q/223/102 academia.stackexchange.com/q/39/102 academia.stackexchange.com/q/278/102 academia.stackexchange.com/q/185/102 academia.stackexchange.com/q/109/102 academia.stackexchange.com/q/83/102 do not depend on the field/journal.
    – user102
    Mar 4, 2012 at 8:13
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    So I don't think this kind of remarks is really constructive. It is of course true to some questions depend on the field/journal, but many aspects of Academia are shared across fields, and that's what makes this SE really interesting.
    – user102
    Mar 4, 2012 at 8:15
  • I agree with Charles, and IMO varies substantially is a bit of a hyperbole in this context. Just because there are some differences between fields doesn't make generalizations between different fields possible. Especially in this circumstance there are really only two or three prevalent sharing rules across most disciplines it appears by the responses.
    – Andy W
    Mar 4, 2012 at 13:07
  • 1
    I acknowledge that here I was exaggerating and that some general frustrations (or more charitably, worries) that I have with this SE didn't really need to be expressed in this answer. Sorry about that. I do remain concerned, however, that a very large portion of the questions to this SE require answers that either are too general to be very useful, or are very specific with respect to particular fields, countries or other such context.
    – Kieran
    Mar 4, 2012 at 13:27
  • A recent question on meta brings up this exact topic, meta.academia.stackexchange.com/q/72/3, perhaps you should elaborate on your concern there. It definitely is a point of contention on the site so far, and several posts in meta have discussed it and similar issues.
    – Andy W
    Mar 4, 2012 at 14:27

There are a few journals I've encountered where the written reviews are published alongside the paper itself (the BMJ's new open access journal comes to mind). Other than that, generally I've only seen them sent to the other reviewers (usually because they're BCC'd on the decision/review email sent from the journal editor) or kept entirely confidential.

Probably the most common thing that happens? The authors complaining about idiot reviewers to their colleagues.


In some subset of journals they are openly available. Who was the reviewer and what he/she wrote

BioMedCentral medical journals are often like that. See example here


you click on each article's publication history


In all journals I have encountered the reviews are kept by the journal through either an electronic submission/review system (digitally) or in paper copy (if they do not have such a system). In the electronic systems it is usually possible to view ones older reviews but not view other's.

The question whether these are confidential or not is far from clear in general. I would, however, venture to state that a review is treated as confidential unless explicitly stated otherwise, i.e. clearly stated to authors, editors and reviewers (remember that the review comments received may include overruling comments by the editor). Such is obviosuly the case with some journals with open discussion formats.

To some extent the confidentiality issue is new to me because in my field everyone pretty much assume reviews are. I have not heard of anyone trying to push for publicising a review (again, in my field). It would probably not go down well if it happened without consent from the parties concerned. It seems this is a sector that is largely unregulated other than in general terms and understanding.

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