Motivated by the How can an author get assurance that his work will not be stolen by journal staff or reviewers? question:

Authors submit their manuscripts to be reviewed by a journal or conference. Unless the submission is double-blind, the authors' names are listed on the submission, so the referees know who the authors are. Anonymizing referees during a review makes sense, since, for example, you don't want the authors contacting the referees while they are performing the review of the manuscript. But what about after the review has taken place?

Why don't journals and conferences make available to authors the names of the referees who have reviewed the manuscript?

It really makes no sense to me.

Other questions on this site related to the present question:

What to do if a referee plagiarises the result after rejecting a paper?

Are the referees of a journal allowed to reveal the title of the papers they review after the review process?

(And there seem to be many more related questions...)

One common gripe in related questions seems to be the worry that referees can "steal" ideas presented in manuscripts. (I've personally not worried about this at all in my previous submissions.) A possible tactic to thwart "idea-stealing" is to post the manuscript on a pre-print server (e.g., arXiv); however, not all fields/sub-fields think it is kosher to do this.

Thus, given that the "post-manuscript-on-arXiv" solution is not applicable to everyone, this question seeks to determine what are the main, logical reasons why referees' identities are not revealed to authors post-manuscript review.

  • 25
    One obvious reason is that reviewers might refrain from being completely honest if the authors were going to know their identities. (Imagine a junior researcher having to give an honest but negative review of a paper authored by someone very influential in their field?)
    – ff524
    Commented Jul 12, 2016 at 23:43
  • 4
    Yes, and at the other end of the spectrum, perhaps "big-shot" reviewers wouldn't be so quick to dismiss ideas without giving them a fair and thorough analysis if they knew their identities would be known. @ff524
    – Mad Jack
    Commented Jul 12, 2016 at 23:46
  • 6
    The fear that referees will steal results is almost completely unfounded so guarding against it is a low priority. For example, one could ask why clothing isn't routinely waterproofed so that people don't need to be afraid of being squirted with water-pistols while walking down the street. Sure, you could give reasons about waterproof clothing not being comfortable but the real reason is just that being squirted with water pistols in the street isn't a significant enough risk to be worth doing anything about. Commented Jul 13, 2016 at 8:04
  • 1
    @DavidRicherby Attempts to steal results are, in my experience as editor, quite rare, but not unheard of, and very unpleasant to deal with. In an important result with possible popularity, I can see why authors would worry. It is important that one can trust the editor to do a good job in this matter. Commented Jul 13, 2016 at 10:17
  • Some journals have an "open review" option, which basically is what you are asking about. Commented May 4, 2018 at 23:18

1 Answer 1


Note that I can see pros and cons of optionally permitting reviewers to disclose their identity, or even making peer review completely transparent. But the following focuses on the problems of disclosing reviewer identity after a decision has been made about the manuscript.

It creates a conflict of interest for the reviewer. There is an incentive to provide a more positive review. For example, there is the possibility that the author may be more positively disposed to the reviewer in the future, if the reviewer provides a positive review. Also, the reviewer may not want to damage an existing relationship.

There is little difference between perceived conflict of interest and an actual conflict of interest. Thus, even if the reviewers are not influenced by this disclosure, others evaluating the integrity of the publication may perceive a problem.

It can create more work for the reviewer. If a reviewer knows their identity will be disclosed, they may have to spend more time being tactful. It's hard enough getting reviewers, if the workload of every review increases because the reviewer has to spend more time being tactful or worrying about the consequences of their review on their reputation, then this may make it even harder to find reviewers.

  • 4
    I would't still prefer all reviewers to be at least reasonably tactful. We are humans dealing with humans. Sometimes there are "big-shots" dealing with first time authors. People need constructive criticism, not rude reviews.
    – skymningen
    Commented Jul 13, 2016 at 9:36
  • @skymningen Maybe the editor could do something about it? Commented Jul 13, 2016 at 15:35

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