Wouldn’t it be great if this post were anonymous, and I could say everything that I think about anonymity in the review process?
Maybe I will anyway. Here’s the caveat that I think makes me have something to offer here. I’ve published in about 30 journals, reviewed for more than 40, and edited two of them in a meaningful capacity. This is post is mostly about journals because book reviews are usually single-blind, but I edit two book series and have published a couple of books. So, here’s my take in a nice, ordered list:
- Journal peer-review is in theory double-blind, where the author does not know the reviewers and the reviewers do not know the authors.
- This almost never works perfectly. Some people [insert normative judgment here] google the paper title when they are reviewing. Others recognize a conference presentation, a research program, a research community, or a writing style familiar to them and can therefore easily deduce authorship. Still others [insert normative judgment here again] ask around their research communities until they find out. The more well-connected a reviewer is in the discipline (a quality you want in reviewers), the more likely they are to be able to deduce authorship of a piece. While this is easier to avoid for junior scholars, the better networked you are, the bigger the risk of non-anonymity is. Some reviewers also identify themselves, either intentionally (by a signature catch-phrase) or unintentionally (by being all mad you don’t cite their work enough.
- Nonetheless, it is important (in my view) to preserve the blindness when you can and to treat the process as if it is blind even when it isn’t. The rest of this post will try to explain why I think that, since it is somewhat controversial these days.