Closed science

A few days ago I was asked to review an article submitted to MBE. That's Molecular Biology and Evolution, though they didn't care to identify themselves further than MBE in the email. They sent an abstract, and two links labeled "Decline" and "Agree". If you choose "Decline" you immediately get a "Sorry, hope you still love us" type message on a web page. (I have chosen "Decline" previously.) This time the abstract and well-known (within the field) authors did interest me and I clicked the other option. I then got an email including this:

Note that the manuscript you have agreed to review is a confidential document. You should not discuss it, refer to it, or make it available to anyone without first contacting me.

Deadline: two weeks. Better get back to reading That Which Cannot Be Referred To, I guess.

Source Text:hoidle

Comments

  • 1.

    Okay. It's pretty standard for refereeing to be confidential. But it's not usual to emphasize it. I wonder who me is. I guess I won't ask.

    Good luck!

    On the bright side, India is pushing for open access:

    the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and the Department of Science and Technology (DST), both under the Ministry of Science, recently released a draft of their Open Access policy. The departments have also invited comments and suggestions on the same. The document is open for comments till July 25th.

    In the draft, DBT and DST have stated that since this research is funded by the public, it is necessary that the knowledge be made accessible to the public as soon as possible, so that it can be read and built upon. This will promote research culture in India.

    It'll be interesting to see what "as soon as possible" turns out to mean.

    Source Text:Okay. It's pretty standard for refereeing to be confidential. But it's not usual to emphasize it. I wonder who *me* is. I guess I won't ask. Good luck! On the bright side, [India is pushing for open access](http://www.downtoearth.org.in/content/two-departments-ministry-science-make-open-access-research-mandatory): > the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and the Department of Science and Technology (DST), both under the Ministry of Science, recently released a draft of their Open Access policy. The departments have also invited comments and suggestions on the same. The document is open for comments till July 25th. > In the draft, DBT and DST have stated that since this research is funded by the public, it is necessary that the knowledge be made accessible to the public as soon as possible, so that it can be read and built upon. This will promote research culture in India. It'll be interesting to see what "as soon as possible" turns out to mean.
  • 2.
    edited July 2014

    Hello John

    gsjournal

    I am speaking to the editors of this journal to post papers with live code, they modified their website for that to work already submitted a sample paper.

    I was planning to accompany each computation with a paper report which is entirely live code and graphics with access to live data. Otherwise the progress will be stymied by the pdf type of papers which are horribly static.

    I do not mind to help out with the hosting the live code and data,so there are no issues with large servers. Dara

    Source Text:Hello John [gsjournal](http://www.gsjournal.net) I am speaking to the editors of this journal to post papers with live code, they modified their website for that to work already submitted a sample paper. I was planning to accompany each computation with a paper report which is entirely live code and graphics with access to live data. Otherwise the progress will be stymied by the pdf type of papers which are horribly static. I do not mind to help out with the hosting the live code and data,so there are no issues with large servers. Dara
  • 3.

    Hello John

    I was wondering if for the computational materials we provide here, we could grant an open access e.g. the iPython notebooks are currently private but we could open access for other researchers to use and submit code.

    It produces good gravitational pull to bring talent in as opposed to pushing outwards to look for ideas.

    Dara

    Source Text:Hello John I was wondering if for the computational materials we provide here, we could grant an open access e.g. the iPython notebooks are currently private but we could open access for other researchers to use and submit code. It produces good gravitational pull to bring talent in as opposed to pushing outwards to look for ideas. Dara
  • 4.

    I think we should provide open access to everything we do here. Most of us have been doing this. We've been putting our work on SVN, Git, and GitHub... we could use someone to organize this a bit more!

    Indeed, I see we have two pages:

    whose name has a trailing space, and

    which doesn't. Sigh. Let me move everything into the second one! Then it will contain information about our open access to our software...

    Source Text:I think we should provide open access to everything we do here. Most of us have been doing this. We've been putting our work on SVN, Git, and GitHub... we could use someone to organize this a bit more! Indeed, I see we have two pages: * [http://www.azimuthproject.org/azimuth/show/Azimuth+Code+Project+](http://www.azimuthproject.org/azimuth/show/Azimuth+Code+Project+) whose name has a trailing space, and * [http://www.azimuthproject.org/azimuth/show/Azimuth+Code+Project](http://www.azimuthproject.org/azimuth/show/Azimuth+Code+Project) which doesn't. Sigh. Let me move everything into the second one! Then it will contain information about our open access to our software...
  • 5.

    An update on That Which Cannot Be Referred To. I submitted my review a couple of weeks ago. I want to use an idea from the paper in my own work. In fact I have already generalised it, implemented the generalisation in a computer program, and started testing it, with promising results. So I intend replying to the email, which came from one of the journal's editors, and said this:

    Note that the manuscript you have agreed to review is a confidential document. You should not discuss it, refer to it, or make it available to anyone without first contacting me.

    with something like:

    I have generalised algorithm X in the paper to an algorithm XX, and have implemented this in a program. Initial results suggest that XX is a good thing. I now wish to share this work with colleagues for serious testing, and would appreciate your permission to do this before publication of the paper (unless publication will be very soon). If it is a question of obtaining permission from the authors, I am happy to ask them directly.

    I have little experience of academia, and have never been in this situation before. I don't even know what the confidentiality is supposed to achieve. Any advice?

    Source Text:An update on That Which Cannot Be Referred To. I submitted my review a couple of weeks ago. I want to use an idea from the paper in my own work. In fact I have already generalised it, implemented the generalisation in a computer program, and started testing it, with promising results. So I intend replying to the email, which came from one of the journal's editors, and said this: > Note that the manuscript you have agreed to review is a confidential document. You should not discuss it, refer to it, or make it available to anyone without first contacting me. with something like: > I have generalised algorithm X in the paper to an algorithm XX, and have implemented this in a program. Initial results suggest that XX is a good thing. I now wish to share this work with colleagues for serious testing, and would appreciate your permission to do this before publication of the paper (unless publication will be very soon). If it is a question of obtaining permission from the authors, I am happy to ask them directly. I have little experience of academia, and have never been in this situation before. I don't even know what the confidentiality is supposed to achieve. Any advice?
  • 6.
    edited August 2014

    Two of the reasons I'm aware of for confidentiality:

    1. If it's for a conference they typically have a long lead time, so they try to prevent "stuff building on a paper" from being able to race ahead and get published somewhere else with a shorter lead time before the conference. However, you've said this is for a journal which normally lists "initial submission" dates on publication so that's less likely. I know of one case where a reviewer shared review papers with a student who then foolishly commented to the presenter of a poster at a conference "Oh yes, this is familiar work. I saw that six months ago." which resulted in some very angry exchanges with the reviewer, but more from the "this is a gross violation of professional behaviour and the reviewing agreements" point of view that about tangible damage.

    2. My understanding from when I was required to read a book on patents is that, if a patent application has not already been made by the time something is described to a wide audience -- such as a conference or a journal -- it can no longer be patented. However, description to a very small select audience such as a group of potential investors or the submission process to a journal doesn't count as a wide audience. (Clearly the patent application has to be in before the conference presentation/journal publishes, but this can literally be done the day before.) This case is probably the much more serious one.

    I suspect neither of these is applicable here and it's probably just boilerplate, but there's two reasons why it is generally specified.

    Source Text:Two of the reasons I'm aware of for confidentiality: 1. If it's for a conference they typically have a long lead time, so they try to prevent "stuff building on a paper" from being able to race ahead and get published somewhere else with a shorter lead time before the conference. However, you've said this is for a journal which normally lists "initial submission" dates on publication so that's less likely. I know of one case where a reviewer shared review papers with a student who then foolishly commented to the presenter of a poster at a conference "Oh yes, this is familiar work. I saw that six months ago." which resulted in some very angry exchanges with the reviewer, but more from the "this is a gross violation of professional behaviour and the reviewing agreements" point of view that about tangible damage. 2. My understanding from when I was required to read a book on patents is that, if a patent application has not already been made by the time something is described to a wide audience -- such as a conference or a journal -- it can no longer be patented. However, description to a very small select audience such as a group of potential investors or the submission process to a journal doesn't count as a wide audience. (Clearly the patent application has to be in before the conference presentation/journal publishes, but this can literally be done the day before.) This case is probably the much more serious one. I suspect neither of these is applicable here and it's probably just boilerplate, but there's two reasons why it is generally specified.
  • 7.

    Thanks David. Putting what you said more cynically, confidentiality allows scientists to maintain a competitive advantage over other scientists, and journals to maintain a competitive advantage over other journals. Is there a `public good' argument in favour of confidentiality?

    I have just heard that the editorial decision on the paper is a major revision, so it will probably be some time before the paper appears.

    Source Text:Thanks David. Putting what you said more cynically, confidentiality allows scientists to maintain a competitive advantage over other scientists, and journals to maintain a competitive advantage over other journals. Is there a `public good' argument in favour of confidentiality? I have just heard that the editorial decision on the paper is a major revision, so it will probably be some time before the paper appears.
  • 8.

    I tend to look at it more as a quid pro quo to encourage "timely" submission for publication given that we've ended up with a system where reviewers who work as they find the spare time and other delays mean that for a conference it's usually about 4-6 months between submission and publication and often a lot longer with a journal. If it were the case that there was a 2 week elapsed time between submission and the paper being made widely public, then I can't see a good case for confidentiality. On the other hand, when the delay can be up to a couple of years between submission and actually appearing in final print, I can imagine that those cases where a patent might be being sought and thus the patent preparation process (which itself can take a while) had to be finished, delaying submission until after that would lead to additional delays. I recall reading that someone (Hamming?) who invented one of the first error correcting codes ended up being having a later discoverer publish first because his employer was being so cautious about trying to get everything sewn up for the patent process. So given where we are I think confidentiality is probably a reasonable compromise.

    My utopian solution would be to use modern technology and deliberate "reviewing time" in academic jobs to enable 2 week review processes so confidentiality isn't needed (along with a drastic rethink of what's patentable)...

    Source Text:I tend to look at it more as a _quid pro quo_ to encourage "timely" submission for publication given that we've ended up with a system where reviewers who work as they find the spare time and other delays mean that for a conference it's usually about 4-6 months between submission and publication and often a lot longer with a journal. If it were the case that there was a 2 week elapsed time between submission and the paper being made widely public, then I can't see a good case for confidentiality. On the other hand, when the delay can be up to a couple of years between submission and actually appearing in final print, I can imagine that those cases where a patent might be being sought and thus the patent preparation process (which itself can take a while) had to be finished, delaying submission until after that would lead to additional delays. I recall reading that someone (Hamming?) who invented one of the first error correcting codes ended up being having a later discoverer publish first because his employer was being so cautious about trying to get everything sewn up for the patent process. So given where we are I think confidentiality is probably a reasonable compromise. My utopian solution would be to use modern technology and deliberate "reviewing time" in academic jobs to enable 2 week review processes so confidentiality isn't needed (along with a drastic rethink of what's patentable)...
  • 9.
    edited August 2014

    I have little experience of academia, and have never been in this situation before. I don’t even know what the confidentiality is supposed to achieve. Any advice?

    The confidentiality is to make sure that people who have done work get recognition for doing it before someone else does something better that builds on their work. Recognition is to academia as money is to business! It's how we get "paid".

    So, it's regarded as bad to take advantage of your position of refereeing a paper to take advantage of what you learn before the paper is visible to the rest of the world. Obviously nobody can stop you from thinking about what you've read. Also, I'd say the problem goes away if people do the sensible thing and make their work publicly available in preprint form as soon as they do it. Then you can cite the preprint and give the authors due credit without waiting for publication... as long as you haven't agreed not to do so.

    The problem arises when you read a confidential paper or grant proposal, get a good idea, and "jump the gun" by using this privileged information to come out with a paper or preprint before the other author has released the work you're building on.

    Obviously it's completely immoral if you don't even acknowledge that your ideas are based on that other work. But even "stealing their thunder" by coming out with an improvement on algorithm X before anyone else has had a chance to see algorithm X is also bad.

    You don't mention two key issues:

    1) Do you know the author's name, or is this double-blind review? In the former case you can at least acknowledge them; in the latter case you can't, so you're stuck having to wait for their paper to appear.

    2) Is their paper publicly available somewhere in preprint form? In this case I don't believe you need to wait for their paper to appear: I think citing a preprint - with a link so other people can find it - is good enough. As long as you haven't agreed not to do so. Unfortunately, you seem to have implicitly agreed not to do so, by refereeing the manuscript after getting that email saying

    Note that the manuscript you have agreed to review is a confidential document. You should not discuss it, refer to it, or make it available to anyone without first contacting me.

    David Tweed wrote:

    it’s probably just boilerplate...

    I wouldn't say that. This kind of stuff is pretty important to us academics. I think it's good to make sure you don't step on anyone's toes and become persona non grata. If you don't like keeping secrets, you should say no to refereeing papers. But as I said in 1) and 2), there may be ways to do things ethically without having to wait until that paper is published: it depends on the details.

    Source Text:> I have little experience of academia, and have never been in this situation before. I don’t even know what the confidentiality is supposed to achieve. Any advice? The confidentiality is to make sure that people who have done work get recognition for doing it before someone else does something better that builds on their work. Recognition is to academia as money is to business! It's how we get "paid". So, it's regarded as bad to take advantage of your position of refereeing a paper to take advantage of what you learn before the paper is visible to the rest of the world. Obviously nobody can stop you from thinking about what you've read. Also, I'd say the problem goes away if people do the sensible thing and make their work publicly available in preprint form as soon as they do it. Then you can cite the preprint and give the authors due credit without waiting for publication... as long as you haven't agreed not to do so. The problem arises when you read a confidential paper or grant proposal, get a good idea, and "jump the gun" by using this privileged information to come out with a paper or preprint before the other author has released the work you're building on. Obviously it's completely immoral if you don't even _acknowledge_ that your ideas are based on that other work. But even "stealing their thunder" by coming out with an improvement on algorithm X before anyone else has had a chance to see algorithm X is also bad. You don't mention two key issues: 1) Do you know the author's name, or is this double-blind review? In the former case you can at least acknowledge them; in the latter case you can't, so you're stuck having to wait for their paper to appear. 2) Is their paper publicly available somewhere in preprint form? In this case I don't believe you need to wait for their paper to appear: I think citing a preprint - with a link so other people can _find_ it - is good enough. As long as you haven't agreed not to do so. Unfortunately, you seem to have implicitly agreed not to do so, by refereeing the manuscript after getting that email saying > Note that the manuscript you have agreed to review is a confidential document. You should not discuss it, refer to it, or make it available to anyone without first contacting me. David Tweed wrote: > it’s probably just boilerplate... I wouldn't say that. This kind of stuff is pretty important to us academics. I think it's good to make sure you don't step on anyone's toes and become _persona non grata_. If you don't like keeping secrets, you should say no to refereeing papers. But as I said in 1) and 2), there may be ways to do things ethically without having to wait until that paper is published: it depends on the details.
  • 10.

    By the way, I'm in favor of a system of completely public refereeing of paper; that's what the Selected Papers Network could do. Barring that, I think everyone should at least put their work on the arXiv as soon as they do it. If people use more secretive systems, more ethical issues come up.

    Source Text:By the way, I'm in favor of a system of completely public refereeing of paper; that's what the Selected Papers Network could do. Barring that, I think everyone should at least put their work on the arXiv as soon as they do it. If people use more secretive systems, more ethical issues come up.
  • 11.

    John, many thanks for your comments. I'll reply at more length later, but the answers to your question are:

    1. Yes I know who the authors are, and as I said back in comment #1, they are well known in the field.

    2. I can't find a preprint (which would be the ideal solution).

    I have no reason to suppose the authors are unreasonable, and the simplest thing to me seems to ask them directly for permission, and inform the journal about what is going on. I don't know if I should write to the journal or authors first.

    Source Text:John, many thanks for your comments. I'll reply at more length later, but the answers to your question are: 1. Yes I know who the authors are, and as I said back in comment #1, they are well known in the field. 2. I can't find a preprint (which would be the ideal solution). I have no reason to suppose the authors are unreasonable, and the simplest thing to me seems to ask them directly for permission, and inform the journal about what is going on. I don't know if I should write to the journal or authors first.
  • 12.

    I have no reason to suppose the authors are unreasonable, and the simplest thing to me seems to ask them directly for permission, and inform the journal about what is going on. I don’t know if I should write to the journal or authors first.

    Since someone at the journal said:

    Note that the manuscript you have agreed to review is a confidential document. You should not discuss it, refer to it, or make it available to anyone without first contacting me.

    if you wanted to be ultra-careful you could ask them if it's okay for you to contact the authors.

    Source Text:> I have no reason to suppose the authors are unreasonable, and the simplest thing to me seems to ask them directly for permission, and inform the journal about what is going on. I don’t know if I should write to the journal or authors first. Since someone at the journal said: > Note that the manuscript you have agreed to review is a confidential document. You should not discuss it, refer to it, or make it available to anyone without first contacting me. if you wanted to be ultra-careful you could ask them if it's okay for you to contact the authors.
  • 13.

    When I referred to it as "boilerplate", what I meant was the fact it's mentioned prominently is unlikely to be something specific about this particular paper; however it's still something that you ought to verify that everyone is OK with circulating a piece of work building on one of their ideas before circulating it.

    Source Text:When I referred to it as "boilerplate", what I meant was the fact it's mentioned prominently is unlikely to be something specific about this particular paper; however it's still something that you ought to verify that everyone is OK with circulating a piece of work building on one of their ideas before circulating it.
  • 14.

    Thanks again to John and David for the comments. #10 is stuff they didn't tell me when I got an academic job. I worked at Gothenburg University 2011-2012, and am still affiliated (whatever that means) there, but I don't have, or want, a job in academia. Even while employed there, I did 90% of the work at my home in Scotland, visiting Sweden for about a week every 2 months, so I didn't have much opportunity to pick things up informally.

    Here is some wider context about the article I reviewed and its relation to my own work. The problem is species delimitation: given n individuals (that is, genetic data from n individual organisms), how should they be partioned into 1 or 2 or ... n species? It is quite a hot topic, and one with implications about how we treat the environment. The most principled approach to the problem is a Bayesian estimation using a stochastic model of evolution called the multispecies coalescent, but this is a difficult computational problem. It can take weeks to run a single analysis of this general type on modest amounts of data, and the amounts of data available in some cases are not modest.

    Last autumn, I had a neat idea for tackling this problem as an extension to existing software (BEAST, which is open source and GPL'd). I called my extension DISSECT. It worked well and was the the first attempt to tackle the problem in full generality. I submitted a 2 page application note to Bionformatics (a different journal to MBE) in October. This was rejected with encouragement to submit a full article. I thought and still think that science and society would be better served by quick publication of the basic idea which others could build on. Perhaps I should have tried another journal.

    Instead, I collaborated with a colleague at Gothenburg University, and we submitted a full article in March, and uploaded a preprint. In May this was given a 'major revision required' decision. The main issue was that the editor wanted a lot of extra simulations. My colleague agreed to do these, but he's busy and the computing cluster at Gothenburg has disk space problems so they haven't been done yet.

    The article I just reviewed tackles the same problem. The authors were unaware of DISSECT, which even in last October worked better than their present effort. That is not to belittle their algorithm X, which I think is a valuable contribution to the problem. I'm sure XX is useful and it could have been a long time before I thought of XX without the example of X.

    Since last October I have improved DISSECT a lot, implementing an idea described on my web site, and another algorithm not in readable form anywhere yet. So while XX is something I really want in DISSECT as soon as possible, they need my algorithms more than I need theirs!

    Source Text:Thanks again to John and David for the comments. #10 is stuff they didn't tell me when I got an academic job. I worked at Gothenburg University 2011-2012, and am still affiliated (whatever that means) there, but I don't have, or want, a job in academia. Even while employed there, I did 90% of the work at my home in Scotland, visiting Sweden for about a week every 2 months, so I didn't have much opportunity to pick things up informally. Here is some wider context about the article I reviewed and its relation to my own work. The problem is **species delimitation**: given n individuals (that is, genetic data from n individual organisms), how should they be partioned into 1 or 2 or ... n species? It is quite a hot topic, and one with implications about how we treat the environment. The most principled approach to the problem is a Bayesian estimation using a stochastic model of evolution called the multispecies coalescent, but this is a difficult computational problem. It can take weeks to run a single analysis of this general type on modest amounts of data, and the amounts of data available in some cases are not modest. Last autumn, I had a neat idea for tackling this problem as an extension to existing software (BEAST, which is open source and GPL'd). I called my extension DISSECT. It worked well and was the the first attempt to tackle the problem in full generality. I submitted a 2 page application note to Bionformatics (a different journal to MBE) in October. This was rejected with encouragement to submit a full article. I thought and still think that science and society would be better served by quick publication of the basic idea which others could build on. Perhaps I should have tried another journal. Instead, I collaborated with a colleague at Gothenburg University, and we submitted a full article in March, and uploaded a [preprint](http://biorxiv.org/content/early/2014/03/03/003178). In May this was given a 'major revision required' decision. The main issue was that the editor wanted a lot of extra simulations. My colleague agreed to do these, but he's busy and the computing cluster at Gothenburg has disk space problems so they haven't been done yet. The article I just reviewed tackles the same problem. The authors were unaware of DISSECT, which even in last October worked better than their present effort. That is not to belittle their algorithm X, which I think is a valuable contribution to the problem. I'm sure XX is useful and it could have been a long time before I thought of XX without the example of X. Since last October I have improved DISSECT a lot, implementing an [idea described on my web site](http://indriid.com/2013/2013-09-17-simple-pop-model.pdf), and another algorithm not in readable form anywhere yet. So while XX is something I really want in DISSECT as soon as possible, they need my algorithms more than I need theirs!
  • 15.

    John said:

    [...] As long as you haven’t agreed not to do so. Unfortunately, you seem to have implicitly agreed not to do so, by refereeing the manuscript after getting that email

    Just to be clear about the sequence of events. I got an email that looks like this

    A new manuscript entitled “XXXXXXXXXXXXX” is being considered by MBE. I am writing to request you to review this manuscript (see the abstract below). We hope that you will be able to submit your review within two weeks.

    Agreed: http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/mbe?URL_MASK=SECRETNUMBERS

    Declined: http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/mbe?URL_MASK=SECRETNUMBERS

    Abstract and authors' names were included, but no more. No mention of confidentiality, no link to a page called Requirements of Reviewers or anything like that. I couldn't find any useful information at their website. You don't even get a "Are you sure you want to review?" confirmation box if you click on the Agreed link. Only after clicking on the Agreed link did I get an email with the confidentiality statement together with a link to the article. I already had access to the article at this point, and there was no way provided to back out.

    In the commercial world, if someone wants to show you something but doesn't want it to go further, they make you sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement. I've signed one of those - six pages of legalese to be initialed on every page, signed, and posted across the Atlantic, before somebody would show me their idea.

    Source Text:John said: > [...] As long as you haven’t agreed not to do so. Unfortunately, you seem to have implicitly agreed not to do so, by refereeing the manuscript after getting that email Just to be clear about the sequence of events. I got an email that looks like this > A new manuscript entitled “XXXXXXXXXXXXX” is being considered by MBE. I am writing to request you to review this manuscript (see the abstract below). We hope that you will be able to submit your review within two weeks. > Agreed: http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/mbe?URL_MASK=SECRETNUMBERS >Declined: http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/mbe?URL_MASK=SECRETNUMBERS Abstract and authors' names were included, but no more. No mention of confidentiality, no link to a page called Requirements of Reviewers or anything like that. I couldn't find any useful information at [their website](mbe.oxfordjournals.org/). You don't even get a "Are you sure you want to review?" confirmation box if you click on the Agreed link. Only after clicking on the Agreed link did I get an email with the confidentiality statement together with a link to the article. I already had access to the article at this point, and there was no way provided to back out. In the commercial world, if someone wants to show you something but doesn't want it to go further, they make you sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement. I've signed one of those - six pages of legalese to be initialed on every page, signed, and posted across the Atlantic, before somebody would show me their idea.
  • 16.
    edited August 2014

    I agree it's bad to unilaterally claim some communication is confidential; I always get annoyed when I get emails that say stuff like this at the bottom:

    Important: This email is confidential and may be privileged. If you are not the intended recipient, please delete it and notify us immediately; you should not copy or use it for any purpose, nor disclose its contents to any other person. Thank you.

    (This was from the National University of Singapore, announcing that the staff club would be closed on a holiday.)

    However, confidentiality of peer review is something academics take for granted regardless of whether anyone bothers to mention it. It's not a legal thing, just etiquette. People pick it up by talking about it. It's probably violated pretty often.

    Source Text:I agree it's bad to unilaterally claim some communication is confidential; I always get annoyed when I get emails that say stuff like this at the bottom: > Important: This email is confidential and may be privileged. If you are not the intended recipient, please delete it and notify us immediately; you should not copy or use it for any purpose, nor disclose its contents to any other person. Thank you. (This was from the National University of Singapore, announcing that the staff club would be closed on a holiday.) However, confidentiality of peer review is something academics take for granted regardless of whether anyone bothers to mention it. It's not a legal thing, just etiquette. People pick it up by talking about it. It's probably violated pretty often.
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