[Comment on “Anonymous reviews: Self-serving, counterproductive, and unacceptable”] Anecdotal information is insufficient to claim



I have read the recent Forum commentaries describing disgruntlement with particular anonymous reviews (1 July 2003 and 29 July 2003 issues), and nodded sympathetically. After all, who among us has not felt, at one time or another, that a reviewer badly misunderstood our contribution to the scientific literature or our grant proposal? But each of these recent Forum contributors in fact committed the elementary logical error of invoking anecdotal evidence to prove a point. I doubt that any of these correspondents would accept scientific claims based on anecdotes. Yet somehow they believe that anecdotes form a sufficient basis for claiming that anonymous reviewing is inherently a nasty business. These correspondents further employed the dubious rhetorical device of contrasting their own self-defined, high ethical standards with those of their adversaries, whom they variously described as rude, hostile, vindictive, lazy, cowardly, selfish, bigoted against women and minorities, and attired in “the costume of crooks.” The parallel with the discourse of political argument is hard to miss.