Thursday, February 28, 2013

Anonymous reviewing in South Asian studies

In the last weeks, I read many posts and comments (see for instance here, here and here) on the issue of anonymous referees. Most authors and commenters seem to be quite concerned by the fact that referees may google titles or even sentences of the papers they have receive to blind review and thus find out who their author is and be biased in favour or against them.

Now, I might be too old to fully understand this discussion, but I cannot really grasp what is the problem:

  1. 1. If you do not want your paper to be found through google, just don't upload it.
  2. 2. If you think that the benefits are bigger than the risks, then upload it.

Personally speaking, whenever I have been asked to evaluate a paper, I never tried to find out its author through google, but it has never been hard to guess who the author was (or at least to infer where s/he had been studying), because s/he would refer to tons of his/her unpublished "forthcoming" articles and/or because one could easily detect a certain pattern of argumentation/a specific interest for a certain topic of author. Suppose, for instance, that you should receive a paper about the Prābhākara Rāmānujācārya…how many people in the world could have authored it?

But this might be especially true in the case of Sanskrit philosophy (which is the only topic about which I have ever been used as a referee) and less so in other fields.

What do you think? Do you see the problem more than I do?

You can read some further interesting comments to the point I made here above within the comments to this post.


Jayarava said...

The one paper I have been asked to review had previously been sent to me for comment by the author (unknown to the editor). I was glad of anonymity because I could not recommend it for publication - though I tried to be constructive in my comments. I could have declined I suppose and explained why, but I was flattered to be asked and wanted to help out.

As far as reviews go - maybe personal animosity would explain some of the harsh comments I've received from anonymous reviewers?

Perhaps this is all the more reason to be on good terms with colleagues and peers?

elisa freschi said...

The problem of the good relations one needs to keep is, in my opinion, one of the causes of the lack of sincere book reviews (a topic to which I dedicated several other posts). I am afraid that if refereeing where no longer blind, it would also end up with a useless celebration of all projects written by "authorities" in the field.

I never received harsh comments… what I rather received were unjustified declines (something like "it is good, but we are not interested"), which are annoying because they do not "teach" me anything.

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