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There's a current post which discusses and criticises a manuscript the OP received, which would almost certainly be part of the anonymous peer review process: Is DEGSeq software appropriate for gene expression analysis? Are the software statistical assumptions wrong?

Essentially, this is a new post, an entirely anonymous account, publicly criticising a manuscript under anonymous peer review. This to me seems a misuse of Bioinformatics SE. Had the OP linked this to a BioRxIV manuscript that would be different, because the authors would have publicly disclosed the work.

My preference is for this post to be deleted (not closed) to prevent any sort of precedent. I think anyone could see where this is heading if left unchecked, like an "anonymous peer-review WikiLeaks".


Conclusion I agree in this particular instance it was sufficiently vague, as the Mods said here. Its a satisfactory conclusion.

The point I'm making is it might be a precedent.

The problems I see for the future are two-fold, i.e. if this was normalised:

  1. It potentially breaks journal policy.
  • A reviewer is ideally not permitted to discuss the ms without the editors permission. Usually its with named colleague(s) within an institute and permission is granted. The name of the additional reviewer(s) are then formalised within the journal.
  • A reviewer is certainly not permitted to influence the other reviewers during the process of first review. This is why permission is required because only the journal knows who the other reviewers are.
  1. It could break the UK Data Information Act because the information is held in confidence if the authorship could be identified. It might break copyright.

If the authorship put the ms on BioRxIV then none of the above points really apply.

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I have closed this question, because opinion-based answers don't work well with the StackExhange format. I'm happy to continue discussion about this issue, but don't immediately see a problem with the question as it relates to peer review:

I didn't get the impression that the person asking the question was criticising the manuscript (at least, not in a negative way). It relates to critique about a tool, rather than a paper in review. I think it is reasonable for people to have doubts about a tool or process, and ask for advice and support around that.

There is also no indication that it was anonymous peer review (although I don't understand why that's relevant, in any case).

Even if the question had been asked about specific concerns relating to a paper in review, I think it's okay to ask people for help with peer review.

I am likely to be biased in my opinion on this, at least because I recently answered a question relating to p-values used in a paper with a critique of the method (which I have now closed, in hindsight, as being opinion-based). I notice that you also commented on the same question, giving your opinion / critique about the method.

Legal issues shouldn't apply to this particular question. The question doesn't mention the paper (neither directly, nor by providing enough identifiable information), and ideas cannot be assigned copyright. A more direct question (as it pertains to legal issues) would be the p-value question, because it directly linked the paper, but there has been no discussion on that as far as I can see.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, @gringer this is okay as a compromise. Please note, there are legal issues here regarding UK Data Information and copyright as well as journal policy. Whilst I doubt this violates them, my point is it could be a precedent. $\endgroup$
    – M__ Mod
    Commented May 30, 2022 at 11:06
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I don't see a problem with the questions to aid peer review. Contrary, I find quite refreshing to see a reviewer that bothers to dig into methods they are not very familiar with. Especially because the reviewer did not say there is anything wrong with the method, rather saying that while researching it they found a red flag and are trying to figure if the criticism is founded or not.

Why it is so worrying the question is anonymous? Perhaps I just don't see what would be the problem with it. Well, I hope that our community is strong enough to weed out unfounded criticisms if they appear among the answers. IMHO, that's why we have the "downvote" button.

This being said, I am with Gringer on the vagueness of the question. They don't explain what is the mentioned criticism and why they do/don't think it's valid.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks @KamilSJaron I've responded above. I agree in this instance vagueness is sufficient not to be an issue. The point I'm making is the precedent. $\endgroup$
    – M__ Mod
    Commented May 30, 2022 at 11:12
  • $\begingroup$ How do you know the review is anonymous? And even if it is, how this post is breaking it? Some journals (e.g. eLife) organize meetings for reviewers so they agree on the evaluation. But most of all, why reviewers should not influence each other?! Who made those rules? I really can't see how this can be seen as problematic. The question is not even about a method that is under peer reivew. $\endgroup$ Commented May 30, 2022 at 11:12
  • $\begingroup$ Its standard journal editorial policy, even for open access. I don't make the rules just follow them. I agree a minority of journals might not follow this, but its the norm. The point is the journal retains control of peer-review and it prevents anything untoward either way, i.e. one reviewer pressurising other reviewers to accept/reject outside the journals knowledge. Its very similar to the role of the Chair in a public meeting. $\endgroup$
    – M__ Mod
    Commented May 30, 2022 at 11:45
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    $\begingroup$ I don't see influencing other reviewers privately and asking a public question as the same thing. I guess I have hard times submitting to a terrible publishing norm. We have no obligations whatsoever to maintain the status quo and this community is certainly not breaking any rules by answering these questions. $\endgroup$ Commented May 30, 2022 at 13:12
  • $\begingroup$ Understand thanks $\endgroup$
    – M__ Mod
    Commented Jun 6, 2022 at 10:58

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