I recently reviewed a paper for which I recommended rejection. I wrote a comprehensive review with a list of items that needed fixing to motivate my decision. I spent some time (between a day and a day and a half, perhaps) carefully reading the manuscript, writing and motivation my review.

Today I was curious to see what happened to the paper but since the journal uses Manuscriptcentral, the information regarding what decision was taken does not appear on the online system. I googled the title and found out that the paper has indeed been accepted by the journal. Having a quick look, it is obvious from its present form that the authors did receive my review and made changes accordingly.

I would have expected to receive a response letter to my review, especially within the context of my negative recommendation. However, this did not happen. On the one hand, I understand (and fully respect) that it's up to the editor whether to follow a reviewer's recommendations or even fully discard their review. On the other hand, given that I spent some of my time producing the review, it would have been nice to at least be able to see the response of the authors (even if not requested to produce a second review). Precisely because the paper was eventually accepted, I would have liked to read the author's criticism/rebuttal of my own criticisms - I might have been wrong after all.

What is the reason behind some journals keeping reviewers "in the dark" regarding what happens to the paper? Would it be appropriate to ask the editor to have a look at the author's response letter?

  • 3
    Responses are written to the editor, to help them decide whether to accept or reject the paper, not to the referee. It's entirely up to the editor whether to share them, and sharing them makes little sense unless the editor wants the referee to respond to the author's response. (Symmetrically, referee reports are primarily reports to the editor, not to the author.)
    – JeffE
    Jul 21, 2016 at 17:50
  • That's why peer review process has to become open some day. There is a promising initiative from MIT Jul 22, 2016 at 7:51
  • 1
    @Ilya What "that"? As has been explained here, there is not necessarily any problem here to be fixed by making the peer review open. Jul 22, 2016 at 9:06

3 Answers 3


You learnt that the authors' response was essentially "we accept the reviewers comments and have revised the manuscript accordingly." If such revisions were clear to the editor there's no need for further review or communication.

Don't forget that while you may turn reviews round quickly (or you may not), there are plenty of reviewers who even for a second review have a high chance of sitting on the paper for an unreasonably long time. This (on top of workload) is a further incentive for the editor to minimise unnecessary links in the chain.


Peer review is for the benefit of the readers of the published journal. It is not for the benefit of the reviewers. The editor would only send information to the reviewer if it would lead to an improvement of the publication.

It would be okay to ask the editor to see a letter. But I think a better strategy would be to set your role as a reviewer aside and adopt the role of a reader of the published paper. You may directly ask the authors questions about the published results without considering the confidential review materials.


I have no experience as an editor, but have read and discuss these things quite a bit. I infer from these discussions that the main reason could be the workload.

It seems like it is easy to give referees some feedback, but in fact it involves a not-so-trivial action to write an e-mail, to decide what to say and what not to say, what to share, etc. And if the editor makes the wrong call here, he or she can end up with an angry referee or author to deal with. The worst enemy of editors seems to be the long tails or really painful cases, so not risking triggering one would be a good incentive not to communicate more than strictly necessary.

As a referee I do appreciate feedback, but it needs to be well thought-out to be properly embedded in the workflow of a journal.

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