Reviewer Etiquette on Published Work

Today I received an email from a political science journal informing me that an article submission I had reviewed has been accepted for publication and is available online for reading.  I cannot recall having received such notification in the past, and I appreciate it.

It also brought to mind an issue about which the few folks with whom I have discussed it have different views.  When an article is accepted for publication is it appropriate to inform the author(s) that you were a referee?

My own view is that one should not do so, tempting as it may be, but one should especially not do so if one is senior in rank (esp tenured v not tenured) to (one or more) of the author(s).  It seems to me that one reason it is tempting is that we like to curry favor with those whose work we admire / value.  This strikes me as entirely normal, and probably unavoidable.  That is, I see nothing wrong that.

That said, I am concerned about the possibility (likelihood > .5?) that the author(s) will perceive an implicit quid pro quo.  Borrowing from the language of signalling theories, I cannot figure out how one might reveal one’s role as a referee while sending a costly signal that one is not implicitly trying to curry favor.  Are any readers more savvy signalers than I?

Further, what are the arguments against my view?  And I suppose I should explain why I think the implicit quid pro quo is an issue that warrants an ethical judgment.  We have a collective interest in a referee process that is as unbiased as humanly possible, and individual pecuniary interest in a referee process biased in our favor.  My concern is that the implicit quid pro quo undermines the former and supports the latter.


About Will H. Moore

I am a political science professor who also contributes to Political Violence @ a Glance and sometimes to Mobilizing Ideas . Twitter: @WilHMoo
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5 Responses to Reviewer Etiquette on Published Work

  1. I think a pretty costly signal is tell someone when you recommend reject on the paper, and it gets published anyway. Short of that, it is tough as outing yourself has an implicit soft side to it. In small research networks, it is pretty hard not to review and have your stuff reviewed by the same people. If one does share, they should probably share the good and bad. Not likely, however.

  2. mdwardlab says:

    What about, “hey someone sent me a copy of your latest article on Defensive Strategy in BCS games. I really liked it.” ?

  3. Will H. Moore says:

    On my FB page someone argued that this view does not hold in the situation I do not discuss: when a paper is rejected. The person observed that when an untenured person s/he was contacted by a senior scholar who offered both encouragement and helpful advice for making revisions that would help address the concerns of a reviewer who had been critical of the submission. That strikes me as a good point, and is perhaps echoed by the following link, which someone else shared there: which is touted as a ” record of unsolicited kindness, unexpected goodwill, and excessive generosity in academia.”

  4. Pingback: Reviewer Etiquette on Published Work Responses | Will Opines

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