Wesley Buckwalter writes, via our Suggest a Topic page:
It would be very helpful to hear a discussion concerning editorial and referee conflicts of interest. For instance, there are many potential kinds of conflicts of interest in reviewing (author is your PI, history of co-authorship, shared grant, same department, etc) with seemingly no consensus in philosophy which are appropriate or inappropriate when issuing invitations of review. I frequently receive invitations in which I declare even remote/perceived conflicts, or sometimes even feel that I must decline in light of them. I realize it is difficult to recruit referees, but this seems like an issue essential for quality of review, and something we should have transparent consensus both from the perspective of editor and reviewer response?
The first issue this raises in my mind is that of anonymity. If a reviewer is in a position to declare a conflict of interest, then there is no possibility of anonymous review, and that is an issue independently of the conflict of interest. In my experience, there is little by way of disciplinary consensus regarding when non-anonymous reviewing is acceptable. There do exist areas of philosophy in which expertise is so limited that the only alternative to non-anonymous review is non-expert review. The rest, I take it, is a matter of judgment calls.
Qua editor, I would say it is best practice for reviewers to declare to editors if they know who the author of a paper is, especially (but not only) if they feel that there could be a conflict of interest. In some circumstances they might still be the best (and/or only) person available, but it really helps if editors know that there could be an issue, so that they can ask someone else wherever possible.
Further thoughts/discussion welcome!