Problems with Manuscript!/open reviewing

Richard Gordon gordonr at Ms.UManitoba.CA
Mon Mar 5 09:12:25 EST 2001

Dear Martin,
The whole situation would have been avoided by open reviewing, in 
which the reviewer signs and thus takes responsibility for the 
review. This makes reviewers more careful about what they say. It 
also makes it more difficult for idea stealing and anonymous revenge 
to occur, because the parties are known to one another. See:

Berezin, A.A., R. Gordon & G. Hunter (1995). Forum: Lifting the 
pernicious veil of secrecy; peer reviewers should shed the mask of 
anonymity argue three Canadian academics. New Scientist  145(February 
11), 46-47.

In this situation, I would politely write the reviewer directly, and 
ask, in light of the loss of anonymity, if he/she would like to alter 
any of the suggestions for improving your manuscript. Simply explain 
that you understand that anonymity sometimes causes people to say 
things they wouldn't say otherwise. After all, the shoe could have 
been on the other foot.

Yours, -Dick Gordon
ps: I sign all reviews, positive or negative. I also send a copy 
directly to the authors, to get around editors who hold anonymity 
sacrosanct. This frequently results in a friendly dialogue to improve 
the paper. Sometimes editors encourage this exchange. (I have never 
knowingly been a victim of revenge as a result of a negative review, 
and regard the risk of such as minor and far outweighed by the 
positive consequences of open reviewing.)

From: "Martin Offterdinger" <martin.offterdinger at>
Subject: Problems with Manuscript!
Date: Mon, 5 Mar 2001 13:30:46 +0100
Organization: Vienna University, Austria
To: cellbiol at, methods at

>Hi everyone,
>This time I have a quite unusual problem with a manuscript.
>We submitted it and received reviews from the editorial office.
>The editorial office undelibaretly uncovered the identitiy of the first
>If the review would have been somewhat reasonable this would not be such a
>big problem, we could just do the experiments and ignore the identity and
>everyone would be quite happy.
>This is not the case, the reviewer who is now known to us wanted to have
>several (!) impossible experiments!(similar to "go to the spacelab and check
>the influence of reduced gravity on your cells...." just a llittle bit
>overdone!). The review of the second unknown reviewer was quite positive
>The questions is of course how to react scientifically and moralically
>correct to this situation.
>We are considering to write a letter to the editor explain their mistake and
>ask for a different reviewer.
>But we could as well imagine to check out all the papers from this reviewer
>in Medline and question his/her competence to review our manuscript.
>Has anyone out there ever experienced such a situation and what is the best
>way out?
>Personally, I think that this is one of the most problematic things that can
>ever happen in science. Because theoretically I or any of the coauthors
>could at some point of time later in our career receive a manuscript from
>the reviewer and of course in this case the temptation to somehow "take
>revenge" could be quite high. On the other hand the rule to preserve the
>reviewers anonymity also protects the authors, because noone can raise any
>suspicion that he did influence the reviewer.
>I am looking forward to a discussion.


Dr. Richard Gordon, Radiology, University of Manitoba, HSC Rm. GA216, 
820 Sherbrook St.
Winnipeg R3A 1R9 Canada
Adjunct: Electrical & Computer Engineering, Exec Member: CSTB, CARRF, IEEE-EMBS
phone:(204)789-3828, fax:(204)787-2080, e-mail: GordonR at
New book: The Hierarchical Genome & Differentiation Waves: Novel 
Unification of Development, Genetics & Evolution:
My web page:
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