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.