Speeding up anonymous peer review by improving communication between author and reviewer

One of the problems of anonymous peer review is that the feedback loop is so slow.    It is almost as if we are back in the early 19th century, the reviewer is in England, the author is in Australia and all correspondence is sent by boat.

Of course, this is the 21st century, and we do have channels of instant communication but the constraints of anonymous peer review mean that a reviewer can’t just dash of an email to an author to request clarification without compromising their anonymity, nor can an author write to a reviewer as they wouldn’t know where to send it.

We have solved this problem at Academic Karma.  Once a paper is registered at Academic Karma with author and reviewer specified (the paper can be registered by the editor or reviewer), we provide an email address specific to the author, editor and reviewers of that paper.  For example, the reviewer can send an email to ‘author_#id@academickarma.org’  (where #id is a unique numerical identifier assigned to the paper).  The author will then receive the email from ‘reviewer.1_#id@academickarma.org’ and can reply to the request for clarification.  All correspondence is also cc’d to the paper editor.  These are not general purpose email addresses – only emails from the author, reviewer or editor will be forwarded and all others will be bounced back to the sender.

We anticipate that this will be useful both to the reviewer (eg. to ask for clarification, to request more data, to request software to evaluate), as well to the author (e.g. to ask for clarification on revision requests, to provide extra data).  We hope that reviewers and authors will have a constructive discourse via this channel however we are also aware of the risks  of allowing communication between author and reviewer, particularly if the review was unfavourable.   Users sending inappropriate or aggressive email will be warned and potentially blocked from the service.

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