Walking the plank: preprinting and double blind review

One question that is often raised with preprints is how are they compatible with double blind review? The short answer is they aren’t. If you want a longer answer you can check out a recent blog post by my colleague Nick Brown, aka the Michelangelo of writing papers.

Personally I don’t believe in any form of pre-publication peer review with the exception of sending the paper to colleagues you respect (your actual peers) to get some feedback. But let’s say that you have the courage or are forced to walk the plank that is peer review and want to submit your preprint to a journal that uses double blind peer review, how would this work?

The answer isn’t that complicated, you would just post the preprint under a pseudonym. In fact, that was my original plan for all my work once I began an independent career. I was going to use Omnes Res as a pseudonym similar to Neuroskeptic and Psych Brief, but it turns out when you submit your work to a peer reviewed journal they don’t like pseudonyms. But for preprints you can do whatever you damn well please (except send your preprint to multiple servers, please don’t do that).

Okay, so is it really that simple, just choose a name? Unfortunately no. Let’s say you choose an awesome pseudonym that you like and then publish a paper with your real name. Now people know what your pseudonym is and you have to make up another one next time you post a preprint. Also, people might not take your preprint seriously if they see it is by a single author with no publication history.

To solve this we just have to make sure everyone uses the exact same pseudonym. If everyone uses the same name then that name will instantly be recognized as a pseudonym and people will understand that the authors are keeping their identities secret for peer review. In addition, it will have the hilarious effect that the name will have a huge h-index.

But what name do we use? There’s really only one option: “Dread Pirate Roberts”. This is the pseudonym which was used for the Silk Road, an infamous black market and preprints are kind of like a black market from the perspective of publishers — work that hasn’t undergone peer review and therefore should be illegal is being exchanged.


So there are a couple other issues.

What do you use as the corresponding email address?

You don’t provide one. All questions will have to be handled via the preprint server’s commenting system.

How do you present your work at conferences?

Regardless of the existence of a preprint, how is presenting work at a conference consistent with double blind review? In this case at least you can say that you will be presenting work from your good colleague, the Dread Pirate Roberts.

How do you promote your work on Twitter?

Easy, you just tweet about a preprint from the good Dread Pirate. It might seem like people will realize you are the Dread Pirate Roberts, but if enough of your colleagues tweet about work from the Dread Pirate then it will be impossible to know who the Dread Pirate is for this paper.


Well there you have it, another urban legend about why preprints shouldn’t be used has been debunked, and who doesn’t want to be the Dread Pirate?