Recently I got a very interesting paper to review. I reviewed it promptly, sent in a very positive review, then realized it would be fun to discuss with our lab group. I labeled it “confidential,” then sent it around for discussion the next day. Was this ok?
It wasn’t the kind of thing we would rush out and scoop or anything. Honestly, no one is interested enough in our general area for that to be common. Anyway the work is much too hard and tedious.
Other times I have asked someone else their opinion on a tricky part of a paper, though it is increasingly rare that anyone else has time to look at the stuff I’ve agreed to review. In these cases, after discussion, I write the review alone, taking responsibility for it.
I have heard of advisers passing papers to their grad students or postdocs to review, both formally and informally. I would not want to put my name alone on someone else’s work, even if it was a review, so I haven’t done this too much, but can see it could be a valuable learning experience. Sometimes people decline reviewing, and recommend their students as referees instead. What are the accepted practises?
I think reviewing papers is an important task, a largely thankless one where all you get is grief if you are late, or superficial. I saw a statistic somewhere (sorry, I really don’t remember) that said women were more likely to review than men. But I suppose I’m getting into another topic entirely.
What exactly does confidentiality in the reviewing process mean? Certainly it is crucial that the primacy of the work be protected. I’ve heard of people that put the wrong stuff in the manuscript, wrong chemicals or things like that so the referees can’t run out and do the work themselves. That just seems crazy to me, both doing it, and being in a field where it was necessary.
Related to this topic, is what you can take away from talks and posters. At the Animal Behavior meetings, many people provide paper copies of their posters to anyone interested. At other meetings, I have heard you are not supposed to photograph posters, or anything during talks. How do we allow sharing information while preserving the time and space each of us need to complete our work?
There is probably a balance somewhere. It probably differs by field. The balance is probably one that advances science the most, while protecting the rights of the scientists, particularly the newcomers.