Critics, show yourselves

June 2, 2011

Are others as concerned as I am about the anonymity of reporting on manuscript submissions to publishers and applications to funding bodies? Some of us may be somewhat protected by longevity, if occasionally exposed by notoriety. However, our graduate students, research assistants and younger colleagues can be left exposed, not least by association with such notoriety.

There appear to be some powerful mythologies circulating that academics are free of partisanship, untouched by conflicts of interest and personal grievance. There may be some noble souls who are faultless in these areas, but in my experience that is not universally the case.

If authors and applicants are to reveal their identities, respondents should be courageous enough to do so. The right of reply is one of the more honourable features of the academy and public life. In the best traditions of reviewing, critics celebrate their own identity; they do not seek or consent to suppress it.

Julia Swindells, Professor of English, Anglia Ruskin University

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