There has been an interesting discussion in the Steig thread about whether Eric Steig should have been invited to be one of the reviewers of the O'Donnell paper or not. On the one had there is the fact that Steig, being the subject of the critique, had a conflict of interest. On the other, he would have been the person best able to point out possible flaws in the O'Donnell paper. Opinion among commenters appeared divided. With this in mind I wrote to Liz Wager at the Committee on Publication Ethics - an advisory body for scientific journals - to ask for her thoughts. Here they are:
Should an author whose work is the subject of a criticism in a submitted manuscript be among the invited peer reviewers of the manuscript?
COPE (the Committee on Publication Ethics) doesn't issue general guidance or proscriptions on how peer review should be done but we do mention criticisms in our Code of Conduct for editors, namely
"Cogent criticisms of published work should be published unless editors have convincing reasons why they cannot be. Authors of criticised material should be given the opportunity to respond.
Studies that challenge previous work published in the journal should be given an especially sympathetic hearing."
In developing this guidance, we had in mind letters to the editor rather than new analyses/papers but recognise that practices differ in different areas (apparently maths journals never print correspondence so if you want to criticise another person's work you have to write a new paper). So COPE says that the authors should be given the opportunity to respond to specific criticism of their work, but we do not provide guidance about whether they should peer review papers criticising their research. We leave that up to the editor.
Liz Wager, Chair COPE