Hidden benefits

June 9, 2011

I understand Julia Swindells' frustration with anonymous reviews of manuscripts and grant proposals ("Critics, show yourselves", Letters, 2 June), but revealing the identity of reviewers would cause more problems than it would solve. Assessing a scholarly proposal is like being asked: "Does my bum look big in this?"; it's hard to respond frankly without the protection of anonymity.

Appraisers also have careers to think about; why risk making oneself unpopular? It's difficult enough to recruit peer reviewers as it is, and naming them would tend to put the job in the hands of firm friends and known enemies.

Of course, we identify ourselves on book reviews and other forms of critical scholarship, but we choose our battles. In a perfect world, no one would take criticism personally. In the real world, honesty often needs a cloak. Concealment can lead to bad behaviour, but full disclosure would produce self-censorship by reluctant reviewers.

David Voas, Manchester

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