Peer Review Anonymity

Graham Clark Graham_Clark at
Wed Nov 1 11:09:47 EST 1995


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

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.

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...

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

More information about the Bioforum mailing list