I am not a fan of anonymity in journal reviews. I sign mine (although editors often remove that). And I started this after I got tenure (yes, yes). I also will show trainees the letters I write for them. I think double blind reviews are idiotic. I have developed an animal model system and while other people use it, now, it is very clear what is my work.
But, the point of this post is to tell a story about my thesis advisor. He was a character. He supported lots of bs from me, but basically in the end didn’t care about much other than his greater glory. He’s dead now, and I got to write a story about him that got published and that made me very happy. Lots of good stories there, but this is one of my favorite.
In the olden dayes before the intertubz, before word-processors, people wrote reviews on their typewriters. Sometimes they wrote them by hand. My advisor, who published more than you or I or you and I will, kept every review in a file cabinet. Because he was a Big Dog and one of the original BSDs, he also had lots and lots of correspondence, which allowed him to develop an index of type fonts and people. He remembered every review. And when he got one he didn’t like, he pulled out the old ones to compare type-face. Old style forensics.
I remember one paper we did together (he was first author, of course) in which he quickly identified the reviewer because of the backwards facing check marks in the margin (yes a reviewer got a paper copy of the manuscript which they marked up). Dr. Backwards Checks was a former student and what impressed me is after all the CSI on the review he said “well, damn if Jack doesn’t have some good points here”.
I guess he thought the identifying was a game, and felt that he paid ‘sufficient’ attention to all the reviews. Not sure I buy that. Bottom line is, that while no one may know you are a dog, but everyone will know who wrote the paper and who reviewed it. And everyone will make too many mistakes (in both directions) to the detriment of all. Applies to grants, too.