Unless you plan to do something really bad, why do you insists being anonymous?

(I’m sorry, I’m doing it again. I’ll try to stop, honest. Grammatical errors are in the original, don’t blame me guv).

Via Bruce Schneier an interesting article about Spear Phishing Attack Against the Financial Times. What’s so lovely about it is that they’ve used genuine FT email text, and segued straight from warning people about not clicking links in emails straight into providing a link in the email to lure people in. And apparently it worked, somewhat.

Meanwhile (ah, you knew this was coming, I’m sure) anonymous contributor “Abzats” has an essay at WUWT entitled Peer Evil – the rotten business model of modern science. It pretends to be an attack on peer review, but no, its actually an extended exercise in irony. You can tell this because fairly near the top we find:

All the reviewers are anonymous. That is, they know your name but you do not know theirs. This is the first red flag: unless you plan to do something really bad, why do you insists being anonymous?

And, of course, the guest blogger, “Abzats”, is anonymous. Therefore, by his own logic, he’s clearly planning on doing something really bad. Arguably, posting to WUWT fits the bill, but probably isn’t really bad. Therefore, I deduce, he’s a deep cover liberal doing a Sokal on the poor guileless Watties.

Back in the good old days when I reviewed manuscripts, I generally put my name on the review – there was an option to do so. I think that, in general, I didn’t find my peers doing the same in return. But this is a well-known problem, and there is an extensive literature and blogosphere discussion on the topic of peer review, and there are various attempts to fix it, moving away from what one might call “the classical model”. Naturally, you’ll find none of that discussed in the WUWT article, firstly because they’re all to ignorant to know about them, and secondly because the purpose is just a Daily Mail style “stir up indignation”, not to actually try to move forward.

To make up for the contentless nature of this post, here’s a link to JA talking about EGU’s multi-stage open peer review.

9 thoughts on “Unless you plan to do something really bad, why do you insists being anonymous?”

  1. “Unless you plan to do something really bad, why do you insists being anonymous?”

    Almost as good as “All your base are belong to us.”


  2. The irony of the review process is that the stated reason for anonymity of reviewers is that powerful scientists would attack the young ones if they gave a bad review.

    In my experience, I found exactly the opposite–certain powerful scientists hid behind the anonymity to make unwarranted attacks on young scientists’ papers. It is better for everybody to know who is who, or to do the double-blind


  3. @old_salt: There is an element of senior scientists hiding behind anonymity to make unwarranted attacks on junior scientists’ work, but it cuts both ways. The junior scientist whose paper you just trashed might be the primary reviewer on your next grant proposal. And in many circumstances, it is possible to guess who the reviewer is (I’ve played that game myself).

    As for our anonymous blogger’s question, “unless you plan to do something really bad, why do you insists being anonymous? [sic]”: This sounds like that old security state canard, “Why should you fear snooping if you are not doing anything wrong?” (So much so, in fact, that when I saw the title my first reaction was that this would be another security/NSA/Snowden thread.) The answer is that you may be doing something that is perfectly legitimate but attracts the attention of people in power who find it a reason to suspect you of unspecified Evil Deeds. Maybe you’re still in touch with a friend from university days who has gone back to Pakistan/China/wherever to take a faculty position. Or maybe you take a science-based position that is counter to the ideology of a politician like Sen. Inhofe, who will drag your name through the mud if he finds out who you are. In both cases, you are not actually doing anything wrong, but you have reason to fear that powerful people will act as though you are.


  4. Wow, his article is just an overcomplicated excuse to ban peer review and get any bullshit published. The hallmark of pseudoscience.


  5. The post must have set on someone’s desk for quite a while, accumulating dust. The author rants about how he – quote – “last year” – unquote – attended a conference held at a resort on Maui, where “the luxury here is obscene”. I went to the societies site and the resort site. The international conference was held in 2010(!) with a few hundred participants (not a gathering you can organize at your locel Motel 6).

    Seems to have a Galileo complex, too. “Your work is brilliant, if you publish it, not only will you advance your career, it will make you a leader in the field.” He’s fretting you may not get it published because the reviewer has a bad day. Nevermind there are other journals to publish in. Nevermind groundbreaking articles that make you “leader in the field” overnight are rare.


  6. Quite the Willis there. The stock has been on a long slide for about 6 months from a high of ~7. The speech was certainly discounted before 10AM this morning.

    [Are you in the right place? -W]


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