The peer-review process is a crucial step in the modern scientific positive method. Often, academic journals use single-blind peer-reviews, where the name of the reviewers are not revealed to the authors of the submitted papers. However, one can find several drawbacks in this method. Here, we focus on the following drawback: referees may not spend enough time to do their review on a paper.
Obviously one does not have any statistics on the number of “botched reviews” – even characterizing what a “botched review” is seems to be delicate. However, it seems rather clear that a totally blind peer-review process leaves some space for some “laziness” from the reviewers. (In my field of research for instance – theoretical physics – I have seen published papers with computational errors from the first to the second equation of a manuscript – which would not have been possible if the referee(s) would have derived the equations in order to verify them.)
Of course, talking about “laziness” for voluntary works is ambiguous – and probably not deserved. However, the step of peer reviewing is crucial for the effectiveness of the scientific method. Therefore, one should try to avoid any lack of work during this crucial step of Science.
However, the question is: how to motivate such a dedication for a pure voluntary work?
Some may think about remuneration as a possible solution. Here we follow another idea.
A solution one can think about is the following:
Once a paper is accepted, the name of the referees who did accept the paper could be revealed within the content of the published version of the paper.
As far as I can see, it keeps all the reasons why one may want to use blind peer-reviews; but it enhances the process for the following reasons:
1/ Necessarily, it imposes the referees to be very cautious when accepting a paper. Indeed, their names being associated to a paper, they risk their reputations if the paper has severe verifiable mistakes in it. Therefore, it obligates referees to be, during their reviewing work, as cautious as they would be for their own research.
2/ It gives a recognition to the work of the referees who may have spent a big amount of time to read and check papers. Eventually, it could be a new source of reputation for researchers who participate in several different ways to the elaboration of our scientific knowledge. (Let us note that recognizing referees already seems to be a new trend in scientific publishing: see for instance the “outstanding referees” list of the APS journals (http://publish.aps.org/OutstandingReferees?utm_source=email&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=spring-newsletter2013
I imagine one possible drawback of doing so: referees could become less inclined to accept cutting edge research papers. However, I think this drawback may be counter-balanced by the will of researchers of having their own names (somehow) associated to a cutting edge discovery (through the revelation of the referees' names in the published version of a paper).
I would like to hear your comments upon this proposal. Whether you think it is a good or a bad idea, I just would like to know what the reasons are. Also, please indicate your field of research as this proposal might not be adequate for every field of research.
Thank you for your time and your attention!