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Ethical Guidelines for Reviewers

We've already talked some about the ethics of reviewing papers in class. Here's a summary of some key things to keep in mind:
  1. Confidentiality
    • The knowledge you gain from reading someone else's work is confidential. As we discussed in class, this means that you may not use it to competitive advantage (e.g. to suggest research ideas, share it with others, or in any way co-opt it as your own idea). We had multiple people decide not to participate in the Mock PC because of concerns about sharing their ideas too widely -- this is a real concern for authors, and something that reviewers must take seriously.
    • Your role as a reviewer is also confidential. You have the choice to disclose this information to authors, but that choice is very rarely acted on. Most importantly, you must keep information about any other reviewers (e.g., those you select as AC) confidential.
    • The names of the authors and any other information about the paper is also confidential.
  2. Conflict of interest: As we discussed in class, you are expected to recuse yourself from reviewing a paper
    • If there is a real conflict of interest (e.g. an author is a close friend of yours, co-author, advisor, from the same institution, funds you, etc.)
    • If there is a perceived conflict of interest (see above)
    • Whether or not anyone else knows about the conflict of interest
  3. Fair judgement: You should do everything you can to judge a manuscript fairly. Some implicatinos of this include:
    • Let whoever assigned you to review it know if you don't feel qualified to review a paper
    • Do your best to give an unbiased review (e.g. even if you don't like the area of research for some reason, or especially if you very much do like it)
    • Explain your judgements clearly, including why you came to them
  4. Politeness: Take a constructive tone in your reviews. Even if a paper doesn't seem above bar, your review should still aim to have a positive impact on the authors.
    • You can think of reviews as an opportunity to mentor the authors and give them useful feedback about how they can improve their research (something that we will all benefit from when they publish their results).
    • Rudeness, derogatory comments, and personal insults are not appropriate in a review. Criticism is hard enough to take well when it is constructive.
You might be interested in exploring other summaries of the reviewer's ethical obligations. One I like is that of the ASHA.

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