When sending a decision email in OJS 3.3, there is an option to BCC the reviewers when the decision letter is sent to the author:
Send to Reviewers
Send a copy of this email notification by BCC to the following reviewers.
HOWEVER, when we tested this, the author’s email address is clearly visible by the reviewers when they receive the email, which breaks the anonymity of the peer review. In 2.x you could check a box that brought up a second editable email (thus a chance to remove any identifying information) which could then be sent to just the reviewers. Could something like that be implemented for the current version?
Thank you for raising this concern. The BCC option for reviewers was recently re-added to OJS and is an older feature from OJS 2. Were you familiar with this feature in OJS 2.x, or did you encounter this feature for the first time in OJS 3.3?
The OJS 2.x feature dodged this revelation of the author identity to reviewers by sending the message to the author, then bouncing to another email compose form so that a slightly different form of the same message could be sent to reviewers.
However, that was a confusing way of doing things (the user would see an email form; send it; then see another, without a lot of clarity on why). OJS 3.3 reintroduces this feature but with a simplified option to BCC reviewers directly on the email to the authors.
This option should be used with discretion by journal editors, since, as you pointed out, the anonymity is broken when reviewers receive this email and can see the authors’ contact details. Since reviewers will ultimately see authors’ names when an article is accepted to the journal and published in an issue, there are cases where BCC-ing reviewers may be appropriate once reviewers have written and submitted their comments. There may be other situations where the journal would prefer to retain anonymity up until the point of publication, or indefinitely (such as when an article is declined). Ultimately we leave this up to journal editors to decide at their discretion, since the option to BCC reviewers implies that the anonymity will indeed be broken at this stage.
I hope this helps to clarify the decision around re-adding this feature in OJS 3.3.
Regarding your point noted above, is there an alternative way of relaying the editorial decision to reviewers when including reviewer report files? Our editors prefer to preserve the double blind peer review process, as I’m sure the majority of users do, and found the option available in OJS 2.x useful but there does not appear to be an alternative option on OJS 3.3.
Other users have requested this change and there is an open issue for it in PKP’s Github repository, where we manage and track our software development. This feature has been assigned a milestone of OJS 3.4, so it should be made available with the next release of the software.
Please add a comment to the issue with more information about what you want and to let our developers know this is a community priority. You just need to create a free Github account in order to comment on issues or create new issues.
In OJS 3.3, you have the option to notify each reviewer individually and compose a message each time, but there is currently no email template or BCC option that meets this need.