…to authors, that is.
Sometimes I wish I could. Not when I’m a reviewer – all the journals I’ve reviewed for so far have had blind review, so that’s not a problem*.
But when I’m a reader; a student; a researcher; just trying to learn about something or other; that’s when it would sometimes be good to not know who wrote it.
By “it”, I mean the journal article. When it comes to books or blogs or news or whatever else I happen to read, knowing the author might be beneficial in that it situates the work in a particular context; in an oeuvre if you’re feeling fancy. And such context might in turn be useful for understanding the text; I doubt I would have read To The Lighthouse if I didn’t know it was by Virginia Woolf, for example.
But I have different expectations, and standards, for novels vs. research. (D’uh.) I know that when I’m reading research, I’m (usually) feeling critical. Or at least, I’m engaging with the work – the argument, the theory, the results – in a way that requires my critical capacities to be minimally active.
It’s hard to be critical of my friends. Even when I consciously separate the work from the person (as we all have to, obviously, otherwise how would we survive Reviewer 2?) previous knowledge slips in – “that was an awkward sentence; but of course, I know what they mean” or “what a strange paragraph; it must have been added to placate a reviewer” or “this seems like a bit of a stretch to me; but surely they wouldn’t put their name on something they didn’t feel confident about?”
I’m not thinking of any particular paper; just a general frustration I feel when I’m reading the work of someone I know: “begone you veil of familiarity, let me see this research clearly, uncompromisingly!”
Sigh. I don’t know of any solution; I just wanted to share the discomfort in knowing I’m not being impartial. How do you, dear reader, feel about reading your friends?
* I once accidentally unblinded myself when doing a review. I didn’t know the researchers though (had never even heard of them), so I did the review anyway and let the editor know about the accident. I don’t know (yet) what was decided about it.
ps. On the topic of blinding, I also recommend reading this post by Simine Vazire!
pps. On the topic of tenuously related things, I loved this book called Blindness.