Peer Review Anonymity

Alexander Berezin berezin at MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA
Wed Nov 1 09:53:55 EST 1995

On Wed, 1 Nov 1995, David Curtis wrote:

> berezin at MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA (Alexander Berezin) wrote:
> >Once again, I invite you to present your argument(s) towards 
> >the discussion of PRO and CON of peer review anonymity. 
> >Should you (or anyone else for this matter) will come up with 
> >some truly strong and unbeatable arguments in favor of APR 
> >I will be more than happy to admit that I have missed something 
> >fundamental for the argument in favor of APR.
> I review papers from people who may be reviewing my papers, my grant
> applications and who may be personal friends. If in my capacity as
> reviewer I may wish to be severely critical of some aspect of a paper
> then I'm going to have to be extremely confident that none of the
> authors is going to take it as a personal affront from me to them
> which may invite some kind of pay-back later. Feeling inhibited in
> this way isn't really conducive to honest reviewing, I think. 
> Dave Curtis (dcurtis at
> Institute of Psychiatry, London 

Thank you for your comments. However, the embarrassment
we may feel in refereeing papers of our friends does not 
explain the MAIN question:

Why should you should do it (the refereeing)
at first place ? 

The purpose of scienific publications is to communicate
your results (original data and/or reflective and
interpretational findings) to your colleagues - actual
colleagues (active in the field) and potential (meaning 
by this all members of the public who by one reason or 
anothe may be interested in your work).

If you, as a referee, have a severe criticism about 
the work, your (signed) comments should be published
along with the paper. If the author decided to publish
despite harsh criticism, the final decision should be
his/her, NOT the reviewer. The readers, seeing both
the paper and the comments from the reviewer(s), can
then decide for themselves who is "more right", if any.

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. 

Alexander A. Berezin, PhD
Department of Engineering Physics
McMaster University, Hamilton,
Ontario, Canada, L8S 4L7
tel. (905) 525-9140 ext. 24546


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