LINGUIST List 15.324

Thu Jan 29 2004

Disc: Re: Blind Peer Review

Editor for this issue: Sarah Murray <>


  1. Ronald Sheen, Re: 15.310, Disc: Re: Blind Peer Review

Message 1: Re: 15.310, Disc: Re: Blind Peer Review

Date: Thu, 29 Jan 2004 01:18:05 +0400
From: Ronald Sheen <>
Subject: Re: 15.310, Disc: Re: Blind Peer Review

If David Ogden's remarks reflect reality, it is a sad comment thereon.
He argues that abandoning the principle of anonymity would decrease
the number of reviewers available prepared to write honest reviews.
The implicit assumption appears to be that reviewers are afraid of the
consequences of writing honest reviews. If this is the case, could
David suggest what in his experience would be the consequences.

Actually, I do not doubt the accuracy of the prediction at least in
some cases. In 1994, I had published by RELC and TESOL Quarterly
articles critiquing Michael Long's advocacy of the task-based
syllabus. According to personal communication from the two editors
concerned, they were made to suffer much personal criticism by the
advocate in question. I, therefore, have no doubt that reviewers who
had the courage to take a similar stance to mine vis-�-vis this
particular advocacy would suffer similar consequences at the hands of
some authors. One can almost certainly extrapolate from this and
predict that in some cases authors of rejected artcles may be openly
critical of the reviewers.

However, I would suggest that reviewers who know that their reviews
will be held up to scrutiny will produce far more responsible reviews
thanks to the principles of transparency and accountability.

What can occur when these principles are ignored simply beggars
belief. The case I described when I opened this discussion, the
rejection of a submission to the TQ Brief Reports, is such a case.
First, the editors of the Brief Reports section, Cathie Elder and
Paula Golombek, refused to address the textual proof of the errors
they had either made or repeated in their summary of the reports of
the two reviewers. Further, they have so far refused to repond to my
requests for the actual reviews. They simply passed on my appeal to
the Chief Editor, Carol Chapelle, who undertook to address the
substance of my appeal but then declined to do so on the grounds that
she did not want to override the decisions already taken. She also
refused to do anything about providing me with the copies of the
reports. She did, however, suggest I lodge my appeal with the Serials
Publication Committee which has oversight of TESOL Quarterly. I,
therefore, contacted its Chair, Renee Jourdenais, who also undertook
to address the substance of my appeal. However, after telling me of
the lengthy discussion provoked by it, informed me that the committee
had no oversight of the review process and had, therefore, sent the
matter back to the Chief Editor, Carol Chapelle. She also offered no
response to my request for copies of the reviews. Furthermore, she has
refused to divulge any information on the content of the lengthy
discussions and has even refused to reveal the content of her letter
to the Chief Editor. I am now, therefore, left with the following
situation. All three editors concerned and the Chair of the Serials
Publications Committee have read my appeal, have not demonstrated that
any of my complaints are without foundation and have refused to do the
necessary to provide me with copies of the original reports. Yet, they
all stand by the rejection apparently proposed by the two reviews -
access to which I have been denied. The veracity of all of the above
is supported by e-mails.

If people had told me before this happened that officers of TESOL
Quarterly were capable of such behaviour, I'd have suggested that
they'd been reading too much Kafka. It is truly remarkable the lengths
academics will go to avoid respecting the principles of transparency
and accountability.

Ron Sheen

Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue