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Showing posts from March, 2006

Accountability in peer-review systems

In most peer-review systems, the identity of the reviewers is kept secret. This is supposed to protect the reviewers from pressure or retaliation. Double-blind peer-review, in which the identity of the authors is kept from the reviewers, is a popular variant. The justifiction here is fairness, while in practice, true anonymity is difficult to ensure.

In any case, the authors of a conference paper or journal article sign their name on their work. On the other hand, the reviewers who have a major influence on whether the work will be published, are never held publicly accountable for their reviews. If many reviewers take their role very seriously, many more hide behind their anonymity to produce inappropriate output. Worse, the program chairs and editors who rely on the reviewers's work, have no real incentive system to correct the situation.

The quality of reviews could be dramatically improved by bringing the activity into the mainstream of research output, and counting it as …