To read and comment anonymously on an author's manuscript for a publisher is a large responsibility. It takes time, care over details and an open attitude about the subject area, especially when one might feel naturally defensive. Specialist knowledge is what the academic book or journal editor seeks and yet a startling idea is what will sell the product: new scholarship should indeed challenge existing knowledge.
Moreover, just as in many 19th-century English newspapers and magazines, anonymity is believed to carry high value in the review process, facilitating open and honest expression and benefiting the larger field of knowledge.
In practice, however, anonymized peer review does not always work that way. It can be distorted, haphazard and deeply biased - all owing to the new competitiveness and careerism in academia. Slack research, over- or under-interpreted results, even rank confusion, can enter the specialist field all too easily.
Making the effort to do a thorough evaluation job, to welcome new insight built on fresh research and understanding, is the ideal goal.
'Top drawer, as always. It couldn’t be any better and instructive ... the author’s ms will profit enormously'
Commissioning Book Editor