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As a referee, I like to submit my reports in a timely fashion in order to avoid unnecessary delays in the publication (and also because I hate when referees spend months and months reviewing my papers). However, I have noticed that sometimes the journal does not make a decision on the paper until several months or weeks later. I have an example when I submitted my report in July and the decision was made in November. I was wondering if it would be correct/ethical to put the date on my report in order to show the authors that my report was submitted on time, even if I am an anonymous referee, and that other referees or the editors are to blame for any delays.

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    Keep in mind that the date can help de-anonymizing you because the conventions are very country-specific. For instance, MDY instead of DMY, or using dots, slashes or hyphens as separators, are all pieces of information that subtract precious bits of entropy from the pool. – Federico Poloni Jul 27 '16 at 13:07
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    @FedericoPoloni Sure, but knowing that you could chose a format different from the norm for your country, or you could vary the format from one report to another. – Dan C Jul 27 '16 at 13:09
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    Usually acceptances are not made right after all referee reports are in (at least in math). There's generally a stage of revisions, and then there may be editor discussion. – Kimball Jul 27 '16 at 13:44
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    Is purpose to make editors look bad or somehow give them a poke to work faster? (will adding a date on the referee report that author sees change the editors workload?) Or is purpose to distinguish your report from the other referees (who took long time) and if so, to whom is that particular message directed, the editor or author? I suspect that putting a date inside the referee text would just give the author something more to be mad about (look how long things sat on editors desk) but otherwise be neutral in effect. (so, I only see it being a net negative to do it) – Carol Jul 27 '16 at 13:45
  • @FedericoPoloni: Just follow the ISO 8601 standard, then the information leaked about your locale tends to zero. – Ben Voigt Jul 27 '16 at 15:08
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Would it be "correct" or "ethical"? Probably.

Would it do anything? Probably not. There are often reasons for a review to come in late, and some of them are not just "The reviewer is a slacker". Beyond that, the editorial staff at a journal has their own discretion beyond just "What do the reviewers say?", and that can (and should) take time.

Assuming you're anonymous, I can't really see an upside as an annoyed author of a delayed paper behind knowing that "It's totally not Reviewer 2's fault".

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    +1 especially for the last sentence, which was my immediate response when I read this question. – Stella Biderman Feb 1 '18 at 16:21

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