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Something I just wrote in a referee report: Post your numbers now, not later

The following is the last paragraph in a (positive) referee report I just wrote. It’s relevant for lots of other articles too, I think, so I’ll repeat it here:

Just as a side note, I recommend that the authors post their estimates immediately; I imagine their numbers will be picked up right away and be used by other researchers. First, this is good for the authors, as others will cite their work; second, these numbers should help advance research in the field; and, third, people will take the estimates seriously enough that, if there are problems, they will be uncovered. It makes sense to start this process now, so if anything bad comes up, it can be fixed before the paper gets published!

I have to admit that I’m typically too lazy to post my estimates right away; usually it doesn’t happen until someone sends me an email request and then I put together a dataset. But, after writing the above paragraph, maybe I’ll start following my own advice.

8 Comments

  1. "I have to admit that I'm typically too lazy to post my estimates right away; usually it doesn't happen until someone sends me an email request and then I put together a dataset. But, after writing the above paragraph, maybe I'll start following my own advice."

    Is there a word for this? Maybe psychopaternalism?

  2. dd says:

    So much for anonymous refereeing.

  3. Andrew Gelman says:

    Hopefully: Sometimes people talk about precommitment, but this is a little different, as it's an issue that I hadn't actually thought about until writing the review.

    Dd: Anonymity is an option, not a requirement; I don't think a reviewer is obliged to hide his or her identity. What I'm always afraid of is the opposite, that somebody else will write a really obnoxious review and the author will mistakenly think it's by me!

  4. dd says:

    In the journals that I deal with, I always interpreted anonymity as a requirement. In fact, I put in effort to ensure that there are no clues to my identity in the reports I write. However, I once received a (positive) referee report with the reviewer's name at the top. I was surprised that the editor didn't stop it. I'm not sure whst the referee was trying to signal.

    • Jeremy Miles says:

      I think it varies. In health/medicine areas, there is a move to less anonymity – the default for a couple of journals I know is for your name to be released, and you can override this with a checkbox. In psychology, some journals have said "Mention your name if you want to."

  5. G says:

    I think you should decide if you want to be anonymous or not and then stick to it. To show your name only when you are positive is for example not alright.

  6. Anne says:

    There's some debate over this, but many groups routinely submit their papers to arxiv.org as soon as they submit them to a journal. Almost everyone in astronomy posts their papers on arxiv.org at the latest when they are accepted. This indeed has the effect of getting results out much more quickly, and in addition it has the nice effect of making almost all papers available without any journal subscription. (Well, nice for readers, maybe not so nice for journals.)

  7. Eric Rasmusen says:

    As an economist I had trouble understanding what you were saying, because it is so standard in our field. People post their working papers long, long before submitting them to journals– say, a year in advance. Indeed, there's some discussion that maybe the journal publication— which will take another couple of years after first submission— is unimportant except as validation for tenure and salary.