The journal operates a double blind peer review system. Because the journal is small, it does not use a platform for reviews, so reviewers are sent a Word document containing the manuscript and an evaluation form to complete, in which they can leave their comments. However, some reviewers choose to comment directly on the Word document. Most of these comments are anonymised by appearing as user1 or some other nickname. However, sometimes a reviewer will comment using their real name. Typically, the editor must edit each comment and re-do these to remove the reviewer´s name and avoid revealing their identity.
However, is the reviewer implicitly deciding to reveal their identity using their real name when commenting? It takes a long time to mask the identity of the reviewer, as each comment must be deleted and redone.
Question(s) for the Forum
- Would it be a breach of contract to send the document with the reviewer’s identity revealed to the author?
The Forum suggested that the editor simply tell the reviewers not to leave their comments on the Word document. The journal could also look at their policies to make it clear to reviewers what they should do. The style of peer review is a matter of journal policy, not contract. The double blind peer review system means that the reviewer and author identities are not known. If the reviewer’s identity is revealed to the author, it may cause problems if the author knows the reviewer, or disagrees with their decision, or feels their decision was biased. This could result in the editor having to find additional reviewers.
If the problem is the time it takes for the editor to mask the reviewer comments from the Word file, the journal could consider using PDF files instead of Word files, or the Word file can be saved as a PDF but without including the tracked changes.
The journal have decided to use software to mask the reviewers identity in the Word processing document, in order to maintain their anonymity. The journal considers the case closed.