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September 12, 2013


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Fun fact: after you remove your name from document metadata, Word may reinsert it if you save in a different format. (There's also the matter of change tracking, if you have that active.)

Hi Mark

thanks - this is really useful, especially the instructions for how to make the paper anonymous. I completely agree about anonymous submissions for conferences. This strikes me as an excellent idea and it should be more widespread. I'm less worried about the metadata. I take it that this is something you necessarily see as a referee unless you look for it. So, I think there is an equal duty for the referees not to check the metadata. This seems to me to be an equivalent duty as the one not to google the article title before refereeing.

I have to say often not knowing who the author is is very difficult given that people present their papers in seminars and conferences and you kind of know who is working on what. Do you think one should agree to referee a paper if one knows who has authored it?

Nice post, Mark.

I'd also like to hear your thoughts about whether abstracts submitted to workshops should be anonymized for referees. (This has come up locally.) I am starting to think it's a good idea.

Thanks Robert, Jussi and Eric!

Robert, I'm still using WordPerfect so I didn't know that.

And Jussi, I think you're right that the metadata won't normally cause a problem if you don't go looking for it. And you're doubly right that referees shouldn't be looking for it. I think there are ways that it can be noticed inadvertently. If, for example, one is wondering if a paper is over a word limit one might look at the paper's properties and it could show up there (at least in WP, I think you hit properties to do a word count - I have no idea how it goes with Word).

Jussi's comment raises an issue that I'd meant to ask about. I've heard people suggest that to avoid illicit title Googling by referees one should submit papers with a different title than one gives them on line. I've tended to think that was needless paranoia about referees, who should with minimal self-control be able to avoid searching for the papers they are refereeing. But of late I'm starting to wonder whether there might be some reason to do this for other reasons. As Jussi notes we often find out about papers from seminars and conferences, and that can happen even when one doesn't go to the particular conference if you happen to see the program. In addition various email lists and social media are giving some of us more and more information about who is putting papers on their websites or giving a paper on a given topic. So now I'm thinking the suggested practice isn't a totally crazy idea.

Eric, I meant what I suggested to apply also to abstract refereed conferences. I know that people worry that you can't tell enough from an abstract because abstracts are promissory notes, and promises are only as good as the person who makes them. If that's a worry one could consider asking for abstracts and papers and then turn to the paper if you don't trust the promises in the abstract.

Anyway, thanks to all for the feedback!

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