Anonymous peer review – author requesting manuscript file
Case text (Anonymised)
Two manuscripts were submitted, reviewed as sister manuscripts by the journal, and rejected on the basis of negative reviews.
The author took issue with one particularly negative review and appealed our decision. We sought the advice of an editorial board member who reviewed the manuscripts and the reports and agreed that the correct editorial decision was made.
The author now wishes to see the manuscript files, including the names of the reviewers, as well as the names of those we approached to review the manuscripts but declined.
We have refused because the journal operates a peer review policy whereby the authors are blinded to the reviewers’ identities. We feel that this would violate our reviewers’ right to confidentiality and may expose the reviewers to hostile action on the part of the author.
However, we do think that authors may have a right to see their file—we are willing to allow them to do so, as long as all names and identifying details have been removed from reports and correspondence. However, we have not encountered this request before.
We ask the Forum whether they have seen similar requests and, if so, how were those requests handled? Furthermore, do Forum members have explicit policies documenting what they allow authors to see with regard to manuscript files, and are these policies made public in their information for authors?
As the peer review process is confidential and privileged between the editor and reviewer, it is up to the editor to decide how much information to disclose to the author. All agreed that the editor should not comply with the author’s request to have the names of the reviewers. The Forum agreed that the author does not have a right to see his files although if the editor wishes to show them to him, then he may do so, provided the anonymity of those providing confidential advice is respected.
The final outcome was that we refused to disclose any information to the author and the author chose not to pursue this any further.