Peer Review Anonymity

Alexander Berezin berezin at MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA
Wed Nov 1 12:26:25 EST 1995

On 1 Nov 1995, Graham Clark wrote:

> -You may say, how about all the crackpot crap, etc ?
> -This problem has to be dealt with at the editorial 
> -level, prior to the revieweing. Unprofessional rubbish 
> -is almost always evident in one second (many members
> -of physics departments are well aware of 100-plus
> -page manuscripts to refute Einstein, as a rule 
> -without single professional reference).
> -
> -You may also ask about space limitations (can we
> -REALLY publish everything ?!). The answer is YES.
> -In case particular journal will face a deluge of
> -papers, needed size limitations (e.g. 2 page limit)
> -can be easily introduced (as a temporary measure) 
> -and so published shorter versions of the articles 
> -should indicate that the additional materials can 
> -be directly obtained from the authors. These are 
> -all technical problems which are fully implementable 
> -(perhaps various specific formats should be tried).  
> -
> -Also, it may be reasonable to limit number of 
> -submissions from a given author for a given period
> -(say, 2 papers per year). But the final decision
> -to publish must belong to the aouthor - anything
> -less is censorship. 

> Unless things are different in the physics world the role of the reviewer 
> is to advise the editor(s) on the suitability of a manuscript for
> publication in a particular journal. This is not censorship - it is 
> selectivity on the part of the journal. 

The purpose of specialized professional journals (as opposed to 
general science journals like Nature or Scientific American) 
is to be a vechicle of professional communication as I have
explained above. What you are saying above about "selectivity"
means that ceratain people are denied the opportunity to speak
to the (targetted) community despite being professionals in
the area. If scientists deserve to be paid salaries to 
do research than they deserve to be heard from. You may
call it differently but THIS selectivity = censorship.     

> It in no way prevents an author 
> from submitting a manuscript elsewhere for consideration or indeed 
> publishing it themselves. 

This is simply to write off problem on somebody's
shoulders PLUS unduely burns precious time for
multiple submissions. Despite we (almost) all 
are FORCED to resort to it, socetialy it is quite 
poor and inefficient strategy.  

> Surely you are not suggesting that commercial
> publishing houses are under an obligation to publish everything that is 
> sent their way? If this was the case who would send their manuscripts to
> journals other than, say, Science or Nature? 

Mission of Science, Nature and other commercail journals
is quite different, as well as target audience. I am
talking about professional publications which are (to
some degree of course) are NOT the same as commercial
publishers (as their purpose bring informational
exchange, not make revenues).

> A reviewer should give constructive criticism to the author and advice
> to the editor. The final decision on whether to accept a manuscript lies
> with the editor, but only after receiving input from experts in the field. 
> The decision to publish still rests with the author - where their work 
> gets published is a different matter.

Contardiction in the above. Plus "expert" in the field
is a cocept which quickly looses its former meaning
(almost a chimera in many areas).

> Anonymity is another question. Most journals do not require the reviewer
> to remain anonymous - it is the reviewer's choice. However, only once
> have I received a signed review. The best reason for anonymity that I 
> know of is that it stops authors from contacting the reviewers directly
> and makes them direct any correspondence to the editor, with whom the
> decision making resides in any case. 

> I've reviewed about 30 manuscripts 
> this year. I doubt I would have agreed to do so if I thought I'd have to
> deal with the authors too...

The above (30 reviews per year) shows an enormous
waist of the your time taking the fact that the
eventual efficiency of the whole process is almost
nil (by the reasons I explained). Undoubtedly, you 
would prefer to spend it on your own research. 

> Graham
> ________________________________________________________
> C. Graham Clark, Ph.D.
> Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases,
> National Institutes of Health,
> Bethesda, MD 20892
> Ph.: 301-496-4740
> FAX: 301-402-4941
> e-mail: gclark at

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