Reviewer Now Author?

Following on the topic of author-reviewer interaction I’ve been asked several times by reviewers that are later contacted by the authors. What should they do?

conversation

            The typical case is this: the reviewer, an expert in the topic of the paper, writes a thorough review that poses some tough questions, raises some big concerns, or demands some challenging tasks of the authors. The authors then find that they need additional help to answer these concerns, and reach out to another member of the community for advice and collaboration. Inadvertently, they sometimes choose the exact person recommending those concerns be met in their paper. This is a rare event, but it happens a few times a year.

My advice to the reviewer: if you have the time and inclination to discuss the issue with the authors, then go ahead and work with them. If not, then just politely decline, perhaps stating that you don’t really have time for this extra effort, and hopefully offering some other names of people that might be more willing to help. It is entirely up to you whether you engage in this conversation with the authors.

The question comes up about whether to reveal yourself as the reviewer raising these concerns or requesting these changes. That is entirely up to you. If you are one that normally reveals your name as a reviewer, then dropping anonymity in this case follows that typical behavior. If you don’t want to reveal yourself, then don’t. Most people do not reveal their identity, but I have not done the statistics to know a percentage.

If your involvement in the work rises to the level that the author invites you to become a coauthor, again it is your choice whether to accept that offer. If you do, then the Editor will, of course, not use you as a reviewer for the resubmission. In fact, the Editor will assume that all of your concerns were met and that you now find the paper acceptable for publication. Agreeing to be a coauthor might lead to a new reviewer being assigned to the manuscript, or it might not.

In any case, please inform the Editor of this contact. Just email the editorial office and let us know. If you eventually become an author, then it will explain the strange twist. Even if you do not become a coauthor, then it will be good for the Editor to know how you helped the authors address your concerns, so this can be taken into account in the decision process without having to reveal this contact in your formal review (seen by the authors).

The Editor of the manuscript will maintain confidentiality and anonymity. That is, we will not reveal the reviewer’s identity. We shouldn’t (and I hope don’t) confirm a reviewer’s identity even after the reviewer has self-identified to the authors. I always use the terms “referee” or “reviewer” and maintain gender neutrality in all correspondence with the author, written or oral. AGU offers anonymity to manuscript reviewers, and the Editors of AGU journals strive to uphold this confidentiality.

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