The reviewer writes comments that he doesn’t want the author to see

Case number:

Case text (Anonymised)

A reviewer has written to complain that a review he sent to us on which he wrote “In confidence—not for transmission to author” was transmitted in part to the author. He had made some rather derogatory remarks which had been edited out by the editor before he had sent back the comments to the author. The review that remained was critical but unremarkable.

(1) Is it acceptable for reviewers to send comments to editors that the reviewer is not willing to allow the editor to pass on to the author? Isn’t there something unscientific and indeed unjust about the editor having access to comments that are denied to the author?

(2) If editors are sent comments by reviewers that are marked confidential, are they obliged to respect that confidentiality?

(3) Should editors make entirely clear whether they want comments that can be passed directly to authors, comments that are only for them or a combination of the two?


The answers to questions (1) and (2) are in (3). The journal must be upfront with its policy from the beginning. In this case it has not been and the problem is therefore of its own making.

Follow up: 

The journal is reviewing its procedures.